Before I open up a new planner book with “2011” marked across its pages, I’d like to squeeze one last post into 2010- A New York-Style Soft Pretzels Recipe. It’s the kind of recipe that many people crave after visiting the busy streets of New York. It’s the kind of recipe that a native New Yorker would crave after moving into middle-of-nowhere New Jersey (at least in my case). It’s the pretzel that I remember my parents buying my sister and I when we were younger.
During the summer months, my sister and I would ask our parents for the full-of-sugar snow cones sold by elderly men scraping at huge blocks of ice at carts bombarded with lines of sweating people holding dollar bills in their hands. During the winter months, my sister and I would ask our parents for the warm, butter, soft pretzels sold on every corner between Penn Station and Times Square.
Have you ever bought something from a pretzel vendor? It’s as if a drug deal is going down, but with pretzels. “I’d like some of your finest crack a pretzel please.” And then, you take a couple bucks out of your pocket, hand it to the pretzel dealer vendor, and he hands you a nice warm pretzel. You pick up the yellow bottle placed in front of you, squeeze a generous amount of fluorescent yellow mustard around the entire pretzel, and make your merry way around New York City, while the pretzel kindly (because pretzels can be kind, just like humans and cats) warms your fingers, as your other hand hides in your coat pocket from the gelid winter breeze.
After craving pretzels, I decided that it was time to re-create them at home, but with less salt. And I was quite pleased with the results. The color and the taste were spot-on.
New York-Style Soft Pretzels Recipe
Adapted from Martha Stewart
When it comes to making any bread dough, I do everything by hand. No machinery is needed for this recipe, but if you are short on time, or don’t have the energy to knead for a good 5-10 minutes, I’ve included instructions on how to make the dough in a stand mixer.
When measuring the flour for the dough, I used a scale (if you don’t have one, it’s time to make the best $25 investment you will ever make). If you do not own a scale, when measuring the flour, be sure not to compact the flour into the measuring cup; fluff the flour in its container and spoon it [lightly] into the measuring cup, and use the back of a knife (or a spatula) to level the flour. Do not tap the sides of the measuring cup, as this will also compact the flour.
For shaping the pretzels, refer to the four photos in the blog post.
2 ¼ teaspoons (¼ ounces; 1 envelope) active dry yeast
⅛ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons (8 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (8 fl. oz) warm water (100º to 110ºF)
1 cup (128 grams) Bread Flour
2 cups (256 grams) All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons salted butter, softened
Vegetable oil, for bowl and baking sheets
¼ cup (72 grams) baking soda
1 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon pretzel salt / course grain sea salt
1 teaspoon water
Mix yeast, sea salt, sugar, and warm water in a small bowl, whisking until sugar dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes (Kamran Note: I let it sit for about 8 minutes).
Place flour into a large bowl. Using two butter knives, a pastry cutter, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Slowly pour yeast mixture over flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon or your hands to combine. Using your hands, gather dough together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until it is no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.
Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm place, until the dough has doubled in size. About 1 hour. (Kamran note: If you want, you can place the bowl of dough in the refrigerator over night)
Cut dough into 12 equal pieces, and roll each into an 18-inch rope. Form a U shape with 1 rope, and twist ends together twice. Fold twisted portions backward along center of U shape to form a circle, then gently press ends of rope onto dough to seal. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet, and repeat. Let rise for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 475ºF.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add baking soda and 1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar. Boil pretzels in batches until puffed and slightly shiny, about 30 seconds a side. Transfer to wire racks to drain.Place pretzels on an oiled baking sheet. Mix the 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl. Brush each pretzel with the egg wash. Sprinkle the with the pretzel salt or course grain sea salt (I used the latter).
Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Pretzels will keep, uncovered at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
Re-warm in a 250-degree oven if desired, toast the pretzels on a toaster, and served with mustards.