Where I grew up, football was a big deal. Especially Friday night high school football. Texas can claim the high school football craze all they want, but I can attest that my home town in Michigan was just as into it, if not more. If Halloween fell on Friday, it was postponed to Saturday. If there was an away game, our city turned into a ghost town. Our team competed in the state finals all four years I was there, with two victories. We were pumped, excited, and proud.
Professional (NFL) football was a big deal, too, despite a winning season or not. Some people boycott the Super Bowl if their favorite team is not in it. But, the way I was brought up, you still watch it for at least three reasons: One – the commercials; two – the half time show; and, three – the food!
Being in the south now, football is a big deal once again…glory! We’re ecstatic to attend a party on Sunday where I’ve decided to bring these soft pretzels, in miniature form. If you like soft pretzels, you will love these. Perfectly fluffy in the inside, enveloped in a golden salty shell.
The original recipe calls for eight big pretzels, but I decided to scale them down into smaller portions to serve a crowd. The recipe below gives instructions for both sizes. I also made them ahead of time to store in the freezer and warm in the oven on game day. Freeze them before or after baking, either way works just as well and saves you time.
And, for those of you intimidated by shaping a perfect pretzel, it’s easier than I should even admit. Just roll the piece of dough into a long rope, hold the ends and cross them over one another then twist. Place the ends at the center of the rope. For those visual people (like me) here is some photo help:
- 4 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for topping
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
- 1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 22 ounces (about 4 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil (nonstick) spray, for pan and bowl
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cups baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tablespoon water (for egg wash)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, sugar, salt and 1 1/2 cups warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Add the flour and mix with the dough hook attachment on low speed. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl, wipe the bowl and then spray with the vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, turning once to cover both sides with the oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 45-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray with vegetable oil; set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water to a boil in a large sauce pan or stock pot, then add the baking soda.
Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface or pastry mat. Divide into 8 equal large pieces (about 4.5 oz each) or 30 small pieces (about 1.2 oz each) and shape into balls. Roll each dough ball into a rope (24 inches long for the large pretzels or 10-12 inches long if making the smaller pretzels.) Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other, twist one turn, then press onto the center of the rope, to form a pretzel shape. Place onto the parchment lined baking sheets.
Working with one to two pretzels at a time, boil each pretzel for 30 seconds. Use a large slotted spoon or spatula to remove from the water and return to the pan. Brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash then sprinkle with kosher or pretzel salt.
Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown (approximately 12 to 14 minutes for 8 large pretzels, or 10 to 12 minutes for 30 small pretzels.) Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Recipe Note: If you do not plan to consume pretzels the same day, then I would suggest freezing them immediately after they hit room temperature. The more fresh they are when you freeze them, the better. Throw them in a freezer bag and freeze up to 1 month. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes (until heated through). This is what I do, and they taste just as fresh!
Source: Adapted from Alton Brown, via The Food Network