cooking with abby: soft pretzels

It’s always fun to cook with Abby, and it’s especially fun that now she’s getting old enough to read the recipe with me! We made these soft pretzels yesterday afternoon as a treat for Geoff, and Abby proudly sounded out the names of all the ingredients for me.

It really is one of the greatest joys in my life to share what I love doing with Abby! The older she gets, the more helpful she is, and the more fun it is to teach her. We’ve talked a lot about yeast and bread-making lately, and she is fascinated.

It’s also fun to see those tiny little hands, covered in flour, rolling out pretzel dough. Someday those hands will be as big and strong as mine, and easily shape the dough. For now, though, they’re clumsy and small and adorable, and need lots of guidance.

The finished product was totally amazing! I’ve used this recipe to make pretzel bites a million times, but this was the first time I’ve used it to make full-size pretzels. As much as I love my pretzel bites, I think the pretzels are the clear winner! The texture was perfect… the outsides were chewy and buttery and the insides were soft and moist and delicious. Between the three of us (Lizzy was already in bed), we polished off eight of them in one night. They’re that good!

Soft Pretzels

2 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) very warm water
1/2 cup (4 ounces) warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse salt (optional)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix to just combine. Add the water and mix well, adding more flour, as needed, a bit at a time to form a soft, smooth dough that clears the sides and bottom of the bowl. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it is soft, smooth and quite slack. The goal is to get a really soft dough that isn’t overly sticky. Lightly flour the dough and place it in a plastic bag; close the bag, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest for 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes (see pictures below).
Preheat your oven to 500°F. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn’t, it will make your pretzels splotchy. Sometimes I have a hard time getting the baking soda completely dissolved, so I just lightly stir up the mixture right before adding each pretzel.
Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (anywhere from 14 to 22 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Bake the pretzels for 7 to 9 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Bake one sheet at a time – it won’t hurt the other pretzels to chill out for a little longer.
Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.

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  1. These look lovely. I wonder how they'd work with whole wheat flour. I do love a good soft pretzel. Thanks for sharing!

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