Soft Pretzels

10 pretzels

4 ¼ cups bread flour
1½ Tb instant yeast
2 tsp sea salt
2 Tb granulated sugar
8 Tb unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups water
1 egg

Notes:
Lye is recommended to treat the pretzels before baking; this raises the alkalinity of the surface and aids in creating the distinctive pretzel crunch. Lye can be purchased online, and is found at many hardware stores as a drain cleaner. This should give you a pretty good idea of the intensity of working with this highly caustic substance, wear gloves, read all warning labels and be careful!

– We’re recommending a piece of specialized equipment here; the perforated sheet pan brings more airflow to the underside of the pretzels, while keeping contact with the pan surface. If you don’t have a perforated sheet pan, use a standard cookie sheet.

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.   Use your hand to mix the ingredients together until no dry ingredients remain.  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is soft, springy and smooth to touch.  Place the dough in a large, clean bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  Set the bowl in a warm place and away from draft.  Let the dough ferment for one hour.  
  2. Divide the pretzel dough into approximately 10 pieces.  Round the pieces into balls and place the balls onto a flour-dusted, parchment-lined sheet tray.  Let the balls chill in the refrigerator or for one hour or until cool.  
  3. Remove the balls from the refrigerator.  Working with one at a time, flatten each ball with the palm of your hand and roll it up into a cigar-like shape.  Use the palms of your hands and roll the dough back and forth against the work surface, starting in the middle of the dough and working outwards.  Roll the rope out to 30 inches.  
  4. Next, take the ends of the rope and bring them together as if you were forming a circle.  Twist the ends together once and brings the ends towards you and pinch them down onto the bottom curve of the pretzel.  Place the shaped pretzel onto a flour-dusted parchment-lined sheet tray.  Continue shaping all the pretzels.  Let the pretzels rise at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate. This is a good stopping place, you can pick up the next day. Don’t leave your pretzels in the fridge for more than 24 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Remove the pretzels from the refrigerator.  Using gloves, dip the pretzels, one at a time, into a 5% lye solution.  Place the dipped pretzels onto a cooling rack lined tray to let the extra bit of lye drip off.  (Remember to cover your work area while you work with the lye).  Then carefully place the pretzels onto an oiled sheet pan.  Sprinkle the pretzels with salt of your choice and then bake for 10 to 15 minutes. 

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