Dip them in yellow mustard. Make the easy dip recipe (provided below) and bathe them in the melted, cheddar-y mess. Slice them, and stack some corned beef and sauerkraut in the center.
What’s “them,” exactly?
I was pining for the ballpark and warm weather the other day. I was also craving mustard. So I decided to try my hand at making these delicious treats, not expecting much because baking scares me a little. They turned out perfectly. The batch made eight, and by the end of the day there were only two left—and those were saved for photography purposes.
I’m not quite sure why I thought making these would be hard. Like I said, sometimes baking intimidates me, since it involves science and all that jazz. I also remember once watching a show that featured soft pretzels, and there was extensive information about the lye solution that professional pretzel makers use to make the pretzels—that maybe scared me off a little. Basically, they dip the dough in a sodium hydroxide solution before baking, and that’s what makes the pretzels brown and chewy. Well, lye is pretty harsh stuff that requires gloves and safety goggles, none of which I have in my kitchen, so I found that most recipes opt for baking soda. It works, but it’s pretty weak. I did some research, and Cooks Illustrated, of course being the sly cooking ninjas they are, came up with a more scientific solution. Bake the baking soda in the oven for two hours to dehydrate it. That brings its pH from a mere eight to 11. Lye’s pH is typically 14.
If you don’t have two-plus hours to spend on these soft pretzels, don’t fret. They will taste just as good if you dip them in regular baking soda and water (instructions included). They’ll just be a little less brown, which honestly is not that big of a deal.
Soft Pretzel Recipe
1 cup baking soda
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 115°F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (about one envelope)
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for bowl and pan
2 cups water
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat oven to 250°F.
- Spread baking soda evenly on sheet pan.
- Bake for 2 hours.
- Combine warm water, sugar and salt in a stand mixer bowl and sprinkle yeast on top. Let it sit for 5 minutes or until yeast is bubbly.
- Add flour and butter to the yeast mixture, and using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed to combine, then change to medium speed.
- When the dough comes together as one large piece that pulls away from the sides of the bowl, it’s ready, about 5 minutes.
- Remove dough, clean the bowl, and wipe some vegetable oil around the inside. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and set in warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or Silpats, then brush them with a little vegetable oil.
- Divide dough into 8 equal pieces, and rinse the stand mixer bowl again.
- On a lightly oiled surface, roll each piece into a 24” strand. Make a U-shape, then pull each top of the U down and across each other. Press the tops into the bottom of the U to secure. Set each pretzel on the lined sheet pans.
- Choose your baking soda procedure below:
Baking Soda Instructions Option One (longer, but results in browner pretzels)
- Place 2/3 cup of the two-hour baked baking soda and two cups of warm water in rinsed stand mixer bowl.
- Place a pretzel on a flat spatula, tip the bowl a little, then immerse it in the mixture until just coated. Remove, and quickly rinse under running water. Place back on the sheet pan. Repeat for each pretzel.
Baking Soda Instructions Option Two (quicker, but still delicious pretzels)
- Bring 10 cups of water and 2/3 cup of baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan.
- Place a pretzel in the water for 30 seconds, remove with a flat spatula, then transfer to the sheet pan. Repeat for remaining pretzels.
- Brush top of each pretzel with egg mixture, and sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Bake until dark brown, about 12-14 minutes. Rotate and switch the roasting pan locations in the middle of baking.
- Transfer to a cooling rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Eat plain or dip in mustard or cheese sauce (recipe below).
Quick Cheese Sauce Recipe
Makes about 2 cups
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup of milk or heavy whipping cream
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt, to taste
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, melt butter, then whisk in flour. Constantly whisk, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Slowly whisk in milk and stir until no flour lumps remain. Stir constantly and fast until the mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes, then add cheese and stir until melted.
- Add salt to taste.
- Reheat leftovers in the microwave, in 20-second intervals.