I’ve had this recipe for about a year, and now that the weather is cooling down a little and it’s feeling ever so fall-ish, it’s time to share. My first attempt at making soft pretzels, years ago, was a failure – maybe it was how I twisted them, but the baking soda from the “bath” the pretzels go through soaked into every little crevice and I ended up with soggy baking soda flavored pretzels. Needless to say I wasn’t over-anxious to try making soft pretzels again, until I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen. These aren’t plain ol’ soft pretzels – they are pretzel-inspired rolls. They are a little easier to shape than the twisty heart-shaped pretzels, and are easy enough that my 14-year-old sister made them with only a little help. They are perfect with a little brown mustard, hot cider, and a football game.
The original recipe was left essentially untouched – I make my rolls with all purpose flour and active dry yeast, rather than bread flour and instant yeast. The Smitten Kitchen recipe is the “original”, and if you’re in a hurry and want to use instant yeast, it shaves about 40 minutes off the prep time. Anyhow, without further ado:
2 3/4 cups flour
2 1/4 t. active dry yeast (can also use instant and cut 1st rise to 20 minutes).
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Combine flour, yeast, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar in mixer (or bowl) and blend. Add enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Mix/knead for about a minute. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 or 10 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball – to get a nice smooth ball, stretch the top down over the ball and pinch at the bottom (if that makes sense!) Using a sharp knife, cut an X in top center of each dough ball (not too deep though; you don’t want too much surface area for the liquid in the next step to soak in). Cover with a towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes (mine have never come close to doubling, but they still taste fine!)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal (or use parchment paper, or a greased pizza stone works great). Bring 8 cups water to boil in LARGE saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with whisked egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25-30 minutes.