(sorry for the weird and unappetizing quality of the photo, I haven't figured out how to take pictures of food after dark, when I have to rely on unnatural light. And of course, the only one that remotely turned out doesn't even look like a pretzel :) But don't let the photo fool you, these were delicious.)
I love soft pretzels. So, when I saw a recipe, I jumped at the opportunity to make them myself. Little did I know that they actually have a history connected with the Lenten season. When families would clean out their cabinets of all decadent ingredients for Lent, they still had flour and water, maybe a little salt, the necessary ingredients for pretzels. Even their shape is made to look like arms crossing in prayer (apparently back in they day people folded their arms over their chests in prayer, rather than simply putting their hands together.) So there you go, a little history lesson for the day.
I must admit, my version is not as guilt free as its Lenten roots, cinnamon-sugar pretzels are just so much more fun to eat. I tied most in traditional pretzel knots, but as you can see in the picture, you can make then whatever shape you want.
1 1/2 cup warm water
1 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose or bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
4 cups water
5 teaspoons baking soda
cinnamon-sugar and butter
In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Stir in sugar, salt, and flour until a dough forms. Knead until the dough uses its stickiness. note: I use my food processor with a dough blade to make the dough. Mix together the ingredients until the dough cleans the sides, then let it go for 45 seconds in place of kneading. A lot easier, and it works perfectly. I use this method for bread too.
Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl, covered with cling wrap or a damp towel for at least 30 minutes. Preheat over at 475 degrees. After the dough has risen, pull off golf-ball sized pieces (for small-ish pretzels) and roll into a thin rope. Shape into pretzel twists, or whatever you feel like.
Now for my favorite part. Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and add baking soda. Dip pretzels, two at a time, in the water and let them go for about 30 seconds, then flip them for 30 more seconds so both sides have spent time face down. This process makes the chewy crust unique to pretzels and bagels.
Arrange the pretzels on a baking sheet, they wont expand anymore, so don't worry about how close they are, and bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes). Remove from oven and place the pretzels on a plate or two. To coat them with the cinnamon-sugar, I just take a stick of butter, peal back the paper, and rub the stick over the tops of the pretzels. Then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top. (I think this controls the butter/sugar amount, but if you want to go crazy, use a dipping method.) Eat while they are warm. YUM!