Plain, salt-topped soft pretzels are one of the best snacks out there. They’re a great combination of chewy, crispy and salty – and they’re actually very easy to make at home. As good as they are when plain, however, it’s also easy to see them as a blank canvas for all kinds of other toppings. Much like a plain pizza, it can really be customized to suit individual tastes with the addition of extra toppings.
I used garlic salt to top off these pretzels and really give them a lot of flavor. This is one of those instances were garlic powder – or even already made garlic salt – is a great ingredient to have on hand. It’s perfect for sprinkling on top of the pretzel to give it an even coating and keep the outside of the pretzel crisp. While a clove of fresh garlic could be rubbed onto the dough to give it some flavor (as is often done with garlic bread), using dried spice really works out much better as a topping.
Getting back to pizza for a minute, the dough for these pretzels is one that I’ve used for pizza in the past. It’s made in the food processor and has a nice elasticity to it that makes for a chewy pretzel. The dough can also be mixed by hand, if you prefer or don’t have access to a food processor. The dough is dipped into a baking soda and water mixture before baking. Not only does this help the salt adhere, but it gives the outside of the pretzels an extra bit of tangy flavor that really makes them pretzels and not just breadsticks.
Garlic Salted Soft Pretzels
1 1/4 tsp instant or active dry yeast
1 cup water, warm (100-110F)
1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 cup (4 oz) cake flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
coarse salt, for topping
garlic powder, for topping
2 1/2 tbsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups warm water
In the bowl of a food processor, combine dried yeast, flours, salt and sugar and pulse to blend. With the motor running, stream in water. Process for 1-2 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and satiny. Add an extra tablespoon of flour if the dough is too wet, but after a minute or two the dough should start to pull into an elastic ball that is only slightly sticky.
Divide dough into two and shape each piece into a ball. Place on a lightly floured surface and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Let rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Dissolve baking soda in warm water in medium bowl.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Take the two pieces of dough and gently deflate on a lightly floured work surface. Divide each into four equal pieces (for a total of eight). Work with each piece individually and roll out into a log/snake (like you might do with clay) about 20 inches long. Bring the ends of the dough up into a U shape. Cross the arms over once, then once more. Fold the crossed part down to the base of the U and press lightly into place.
Repeat with remaining dough. Let pretzels rise for about 10 minutes, then dip each pretzel into baking soda mixture and place on parchment covered baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with coarse salt and garlic powder (or garlic salt).
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve immediately or cool on a wire rack.
Pretzels can be reheated by baking them in a 350F oven for about 5 minutes, but are best they day they are made