I love soft pretzels. They just put an Auntie Anne's in my local grocery store and it's a battle week after week to avoid going! Luckily, I have an amazing recipe for soft pretzels at home and honestly, it's better than anything my grocery store can offer.
I tried a bunch of recipes that were miserable failures and then I came across this one. I used it for a long time and it got rave reviews but I still felt like something was missing. Then one day on a road trip, we stopped at an adorable little place called Grandpa's Cheesebarn. They sold pretzel dough mix and I noticed that one of the ingredients was brown sugar. AH HA!
So I reworked my recipe to add in the brown sugar. At first I replaced the white sugar with brown but that turned out really... blah. So next I tried adding a half cup of brown sugar and deducting a half cup of flour. BINGO! We had a winner! I made a few other small changes along the way as well so my official recipe now is...
PERFECT PRETZEL DOUGH
I broke the ingredients down by the order that they are used.
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/3 cup of warm water
4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 or 5 cups of hot water
1 cup of baking soda
1 stick of butter (real is best but margarine will do the trick)
1. Mix water, yeast, and 1 tsp sugar together. Let sit a few minutes to activate yeast.
2. Add flour, white and brown sugar, salt, and oil. Knead until a dough forms. (Alternately, you can be like me and dump it all into the bread machine and put it on the dough setting and let the machine do the work). If you knead it by hand, coat it with some oil to keep it from drying out, cover and let rise for at least an hour.
3. Form pretzels. Cut the dough into long strips and twist into pretzel shapes. We watched YouTube videos to learn how but it's not too hard to figure out. But lately we prefer to make pretzel bites. Roll out the whole ball of dough and use a pizza roller to cut it strips, then cut the strips into smaller pieces.
4. Fill a medium mixing bowl with warm water and baking soda. Whisk it together to mix it up. The baking soda settles quickly so you will need to remix it every few minutes. Lay out a hand or kitchen towel next to the bowl.
5. Dip your pretzels or bites quickly into the water/baking soda mix. Lay them on the towel to dry.
6. Spray a cookie sheet GENEROUSLY with cooking spray.
7. Lay your pretzels or bites on the cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 8 minutes.
8. While the pretzels bake, melt your butter and pour it into a shallow pan, like a cake pan.* When the pretzels come out of the oven, dip them face down in the butter while they are still hot. Lay them back on the sheet or on a cooling rack. Then sprinkle with kosher salt and ENJOY!
*Or, if you are in a rush or don't feel like dealing with extra dishes, skip this step. Just take the stick of butter and rub it all over the tops of the pretzels immediately after taking them out of the oven. I often do this to save myself a little trouble! Don't forget the salt!