These yummy little homemade soft pretzel bites were something I created for my older son. He LOVES pretzels, soft pretzels in particular. I can’t blame him really, I do as well and I have since I was a kid. A salted pretzel from a NYC hotdog cart in the city is still a special thing. Call it a right of passage, my husband and I introduced our son to these when he was two and we were still living in New York; he was hooked at the first bite.
Much to my surprise (and searching) the origins of pretzels remains relatively unknown. Theories have it that in the 7th Century, Italian monks gave their young students treats of baked dough twisted in the shape of crossed arms. Apparently, long ago, the symbol of crossing one’s arms was the traditional posture for praying. Over time, the three holes visible within a large soft twisted pretzel became associated with the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Soon the baked dough treat came to be associated with good fortune, good luck and long life. Fast forward a bit, when did pretzels make their way to America? Some say the Pilgrims brought them over on the Mayflower and used them in trade with Native Americans. I’m not sure about that, but we do know German immigrants brought pretzels with them around 1710 when they began settling in Pennsylvania. Somewhere around the 1860’s, the first hard pretzel bakery popped up under the watchful eye of Lititz Stugis who claimed credit for their creation. As with many other culinary discoveries, he credits the creation of the hard pretzel to an accident, when a batch of soft pretzels were left in the oven too long. Perfectly believable if you ask me. My son loves hard pretzels as well, but his heart remains with the soft ones.
My recipe for soft pretzel bites is a tad bit easier than making a traditional pretzel as there is no twisting involved, but it is a dough and it does require some rise time. That said, if you are a pretzel lover, it’s worth it, trust me. These salty little treats also make a great addition to any Super Bowl party you may be hosting or attending this weekend.
Soft Pretzel Bites
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
- 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 12 cups cold water (for boiling pretzels)
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash
- Flaky salt
- Vegetable oil, as needed for greasing
- Step 1 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer, such as a KitchenAid fitted with a dough hook, add the yeast, warm water, brown sugar and melted butter. Mix and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
- Step 2 Lightly oil a large mixing bowl with vegetable oil and set aside.
- Step 3 Once the yeast-mixture has had time to sit, place on the mixer stand and turn mixer on low. Add the salt and flour and mix until combined. Once the four has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium and knead the dough for about 4 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a work surface. Using your hands, gently knead the dough into a ball.
- Step 4 Place the kneaded dough into the prepared bowl. Gently turn to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot (above an oven with the door cracked or in a warm sunny spot in your kitchen) until the dough almost doubles in size, about 1 hour.
- Step 5 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease two baking sheets with vegetable oil
- Step 6 In a large stock pot, add the cold water, place over high heat and bring to a boil. When boiling, slowly add the baking soda being careful that it does not boil over. Using a slotted spoon, mix well.
- Step 7 Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a work surface. Using your hands, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 15 inches long. Using a paring knife, cut the dough into 15 one-inch pieces. Repeat this process with the remaining dough pieces.
- Step 8 Working in batches, add about 15 dough bites into the boiling water and cook for about 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, gently remove them and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Be sure to space out the bites so they are not touching. Repeat the boiling with the remaining dough bites.
- Step 9 Once all the dough bites have been lightly boiled, gently brush each boiled dough piece with egg wash. Sprinkle generously with flaky salt. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown in color.
- Step 10 Allow pretzel bites to sit for a few minutes before serving as is or with traditional dipping sauces like grainy mustard or cheese sauce.
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