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Soft Rye Pretzels, Made at Home

February 7, 2014

In anticipation of this year’s Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, we’ll be sharing articles, recipes, and tips from past winners over the next three weeks. First up: Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain. Learn more about this year’s tournament here.

Today: After you’ve made your Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, you’ll want something savory. This is it.   

These pretzels are soft, chewy, and flavorful, with a slight sourness that comes from boiling them in a baking soda bath. The baking soda also gives the pretzels their traditional dark mahogany color. Be sure to boil only a few pretzels at a time and to use the bath for only a single batch of the recipe — otherwise the baking soda water reduces too far and leaves a metallic bite to the dough. A simple dusting of sea salt, especially flaky Maldon salt, is the best finish to these. Serve a basket full of them with a pot of whole-grain mustard. 

Soft Rye Pretzels

Makes 12

2 tablesoons unsalted butter, melted, for the bowl and the baking sheets
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup rye flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup baking soda
Coarse sea salt, such as Maldon

  1. Measure the yeast into a large bowl. Heat 1 1/2 cups of water in a small saucepan over low heat to a temperature that is warm to the touch, about 100°F, and pour it over the yeast. Add the honey and stir to combine. Add the flours and salt and stir again.
  2. Dump the sticky dough onto a floured surface and knead. Add up to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, as needed, until the dough is tacky but not sticky. Knead for about 12 minutes, or until the dough is soft and supple.
  3. While the dough is rising, place two racks at the top and bottom thirds of the oven and preheat to 450°F. Brush two baking sheets generously with butter.
  4. Once the dough has doubled, gently pour it from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 12 pieces. Take each piece of dough and roll it into a snake about 17 inches long, with thinly tapered ends. Don’t flour your surface as you roll; the slight stickiness enables you to roll the dough out evenly and quickly. Form the dough into a pretzel shape by folding one third of the left side over the center of the snake, and then one-third of the right side over the left. Place the shaped pretzels onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the pretzels proof (rise) for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, for the bath, fill a large pot with 10 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Once the pretzels are proofed and the water is boiling, add the baking soda to the water.
  6. To poach the pretzels, lift 2 or 3 pretzels, depending on the surface area of your pot, into the bath. Boil each side for 30 seconds, use a strainer to remove the pretzels, pat any excess water with a towel, and transfer them back onto the buttered baking sheets. Boil the remaining pretzels. Sprinkle liberally with salt.
  7. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The pretzels should be dark mahogany in color. Transfer them to a rack to cool. These pretzels are best eaten the day they’re made, ideally within the hour.

Save and print the recipe on Food52.

Photo by Quentin Bacon  

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Kim Boyce’s Soft Rye Pretzels