Bready Things: the Pretzel Edition

Earlier this week I made pretzels. Soft, sweet pretzels that I have been telling myself I would make for a while now. I saw this recipe a few months ago while doing my favorite thing in class – browsing the Bon Appétit website instead of listening to the professor. In case you’re not as big of a Bon Appétit fanatic as I am (and don’t know all the recipes in the magazine), here is the picture they posted that moved Sweet Pretzels to the top of my “MUST MAKE NOW” list:

Can I just start by saying one of my favorite smells in the whole world is the smell of rising yeasty bread? (Other favorite smells include: sweet things baking in the oven, garlic and onions cooking, and sandalwood.) I’ve loved baking for a while now but only recently got into the whole bready-things-baking scene – and by scene I mean, me, baking in my kitchen.

Honestly, baking bready things always seemed really daunting. It’s complicated and time consuming and, knowing that bad bread is one of the greatest crimes to food, I never want to be one of those people that brought it into this world. Thankfully, this summer has been one in which I am trying to push myself, and my first step was to finally make bread. It seems scary but lemme tell ya friends, IT IS SO NOT. Moral of this story – homemade bready things: a liiiiittle more time consuming than the ones you get at the store but perhaps little bit more rewarding, too.

The recipe Bon Appétit gives is actually for a “Master Sweet Dough” that can be applied to Sweet Pretzels (obviously), The Ultimate Sticky Buns, Vanilla Cloverleaf Sweet Rolls, Apricot-Anise Tarts and Cherry Almond Focaccia and Easter Bread, which is a lot of bready things. I chose Sweet Pretzels because it was 1) the least ingredients 2) the least time consuming. One of the upsides of being lazy was that I got to taste the master dough basically on it’s own. In case you were wondering, it’s awesome, but I’ll talk more about that later.

Moving on, I usually don’t alter recipes on the first try (or ever) since I think it’s silly to expect great results if you don’ts follow the recipe…. but I replaced the Pearl sugar with cinnamon sugar.  Reasons: Pearl sugar is tad expensive and as a poor college student I didn’t feel the need to buy it for this one recipe. Also, cinnamon is awesome and belongs in/on almost everything that is good in the world.

(I even put kosher salt on a few for a salty/sweet snack!)

I don’t really know how these food blogs are supposed to go so, assuming you can read the recipe, I’ll just leave you with a few things I learned from making Bon Appétit’s Sweet Pretzels.

  • My milk + yeast combo didn’t get super frothy. As a strict rule/recipe follower I’m always scared when a recipe tells me it should look a certain way and mine does not. But have no fear! Semi frothy milk still produces tasty pretzel results.

  • The dough will be sticky. It says that in the recipe somewhere but I feel the need to say it again, since super sticky dough can lead to a situation where you’re left questioning if you added the right amount of ingredients. The dough will be very sticky. Not greasy, but sticky.

  • The recipe asks you to roll each dough ball into a 17” long rope. I’m assuming there was some sort of failed pretzel making with 15” or 20” ropes, which is why we’re given the exact number of 17” but that is not my point. My point is, have some sort of measuring device. I tried with my thumb at first and got something closer to 26”. In the end I measured against my laptop to keep the pretzels all about the same size.

Bon Appétit provides you with an excellent guide for how to make the pretzel shape. Here is their diagram compared to my real life reenactment:

 *If you notice, their diagram shows them crossing the dough over but in the picture at the top, they crossed the dough under. Just something to note if you want yours to look more like the image at the top!

Last tip: don’t stress too much about how they look pre-baking. Mine looked misshapen and wrinkly before they went in the oven:

but when they came out they were puffy and golden and beautiful:

In the end, these Sweet Pretzels are not what I would consider a pretzel. I would say they’re more like sweet rolls in a pretzel shape, which makes sense seeing as it comes from a recipe that can be made into five other items. Still, real pretzel or not, these bad boys are very good.  They are light, soft, a little chewy and best of all not too sweet, making them a perfect pairing for coffee or tea!

I hope you enjoyed my musings on Sweet Pretzels. If you decide to make them your first (or next) bread making adventure, I promise you will not be disappointed.

If you didn’t catch the link above, here’s the recipe on Bon Appetit’s website!

wishing you the best in your eating adventures,