When one has sourdough starter, one is obligated to use it regularly. I am one of those people who can’t stand to throw out the discard when I feed it, and, happily, with this recipe, I don’t have to.
For those of you without sourdough starter on hand, I suggest you try either Baking God Peter Reinhart’s recipe or Alton Brown’s. I’ve had success with both. For shaping technique, definitely check out Peter’s video.
However, I, immodestly, like my recipe better.
1. Some recipes will tell you that you do not need to do an alkali bath. They are wrong. It is crucial to getting the outside texture and color right. DO NOT SKIP IT.
Usually, I use a simple homemade concentrated baking soda (which I also use when making bagels), but this time I didn’t realize I was out until time to add to the pot of water. Oops. So, regular baking soda will definitely do in a pinch. You’ll lose some of the deep mahogany color, but that’s OK! I can assure you that the pretzels will still be pretty and taste fabulous.
2. Many bakers, including Peter Reinhart, will tell you that you don’t need to do a boiling water bath for the alkali dip. When I was first learning to bake, I was taught to do the boiling water thing, so I still do. YMMV. Experiment! Whether doing boiling water or room temp, using a “spider” skimmer when removing the pretzels will minimize the amount of residual water you add to the baking sheet.
3. I like to weigh all my ingredients for baking, instead of using a volume measure. (I use this scale.) However, since many people lack a kitchen scale, I’ve written the recipe out in volume approximates. You may need to adjust as you go.
4. You are going to want to dive into these immediately upon removing them from the oven, but you really need to wait 3-5 minutes so as to not scorch the roof of your mouth. Use the time to portion out some mustards or other dipping sauces, and take photos for your social media or to share here.
5. You can certainly serve these with cheese sauce. I use my regular queso recipe, but any would work.
6. These are obviously great with beer, if you’re into that kind of thing (I’m not). I prefer to pair with a margarita if serving with my queso, which is quite spicy.
SP's Sourdough Soft Pretzels
Super simple, super scrumptious.
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 cup sourdough starter either unfed or fed will work
- 3-1/4 cups unbleached bread flour (approximate)
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- whole wheat flour, as needed (optional)
- coarse salt for sprinkling on pretzels before baking
For alkali bath
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 4 cups water
For the dough
Mix water, sourdough starter, flour, sugar, olive oil, salt and instant yeast in a medium bowl until well combined. If the dough is too wet to knead, mix in whole wheat flour until a kneadable dough is formed. This will vary based on how liquid your sourdough starter is. I usually add about 1/3 cup whole wheat flour at this point.
Knead the dough until it comes together in a smooth, slightly tacky ball.
Place the dough ball in an oiled bowl and cover. Allow the dough to rest until puffy, about an hour. It doesn't need to double, but it's fine if it does.
Shape the pretzels
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set aside.
Deflate dough and divide into 8 uniform balls.
On a floured surface, shape each dough ball into a long rope, at least 18 inches long. The final shape and size of your pretzels will depend on this step. Make the rope longer and thinner for a more open pretzel form.
Form a large U shape with one dough rope, with the open part of the U facing away from you. Cross one end of the rope over the other, forming an X at the top center of the open space with about 3 inches of extra rope at the ends. Twist the ends around each other once more, and bring the ends toward you to rest on the curved section of dough that is closest to your body. Press the ends onto the dough. (See linked video above for shaping help if needed.)
Gently lift your formed pretzel and place on the lined baking sheet.
Repeat until all pretzels have been formed.
Bake and serve
Place 4 cups water in a sauce pan and add the baking soda. Mix until thoroughly dissolved. Bring the water to a boil.
Working one at a time, gently lift a formed pretzel and place in the boiling water. Boil the pretzel for 15 seconds. Turn over and continue boiling for another 15 seconds. Lift the pretzel out of the water using a skimmer and place it back on the baking sheet.
Repeat until all pretzels have been boiled.
Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt to taste.
Bake pretzels until deep brown, approximately 16 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool for 5 minutes.
Serve with a variety of mustards and dipping sauces, or cheese sauce.