Hard pretzels are a great snack, but I've always preferred the warm, chewy comfort of a soft pretzel. This recipe certainly takes longer than opening a bag of Rold Golds, but it will definitely be worth it. Here the pretzels are first boiled and then baked, a technique that is also used when making bagels. This creates that thin crust seen on both bagels and pretzels that preserves the soft, chewy inside. This is a garlic lover's pretzel, with garlic pieces both kneaded into the dough and used as a topping.
Makes 12 fist-sized pretzels.
You will need:
1) Mix the yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
2) Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the olive oil, salt, sugar, and half of the garlic cloves. Stir the mixture with a sturdy spoon until everything is incorporated. Add the remaining flour a little bit at a time just until the dough is not sticky. The amount needed may vary quite a bit depending on the flour used and the humidity in the room. You many not use all the remaining flour, which is just fine. As with any bread recipe, it's best to add just the bare minimum of flour to keep the dough from sticking, since too much flour leads to a heavy bread.
3) Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it on a flat surface that has been sprinkled with flour. Knead the dough for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add a bit more flour if the dough becomes sticky as you knead.
4) Place the dough into a large bowl that has been lightly greased with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp (not dripping!) dish towel and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it has doubled it size, roughly 20 to 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough as rising times generally vary.
5) Divide the risen dough into 12 pieces and use your hands to roll each one into a skinny tube about 18 inches long. Now comes the most challenging part; shaping those tubes into pretzels. For those who don't know what pretzels look like, check out jafuser's writeup in the pretzel node for an ASCII representation of your goal shape. Take a tube and form a circle with one end overlapping the other, creating a crude fish shape. Twist one of the ends over the other a couple of times. Then grab the side of the circle on the opposite side and put it on top of the twists. You should have something that resembles a pretzel. Of course, you could eschew the pretzel design altogether and shape the tubes into whatever you fancy.
6) Place the pretzels on a greased baking sheet and carefully cover with the damp towel. Let them rise again for about 10 to 15 minutes.
7) While the pretzels are rising, preheat the oven to 475 °F. Put the 10 cups water and baking soda into a large pot and bring it to a boil. When the pretzels are done rising, turn the heat down to calm the water down to a simmer.
8) Gently add the pretzels to the water four at a time using tongs or a spatula. Cook them for about one minute, turning them over halfway through. Drain the pretzels on a cloth or paper towel and return them to the baking sheet.
9) Sprinkle the remaining half of the garlic cloves and the course salt onto the pretzels
10) Bake the pretzels for 12 minutes, turning the sheet 180 degrees (back to front) halfway through to ensure even cooking.
Soft pretzels are best served warm! These are tasty enough to eat plain, but you could also serve mustard for dipping if you prefer. Yum.