Pretzels are one of my favorite breads and they’re easier to make than you might think – especially if you opt to make Easy Homemade Pretzel Bites instead of full sized pretzels in the first plate. Pretzel bites are something that you’ll see on the menus of gastropubs: one or two bite pretzels served with a dipping sauce or three. They’re easy to make because they only require minimal dough handing. This means that even if you’re not an expert baker, you can easily whip up this salty snack at home!
The recipe starts with a fresh batch of homemade yeast dough. Pretzel dough is relatively plain and has only a few simple ingredients. This means that the dough is very straightforward and easy to make, even if you’re not that experienced with yeast bread. If you happen to have refrigerated pizza dough on hand, you can actually use that in this recipe, too. Once the dough has been mixed together, set it aside to rise for about an hour before shaping the dough.
When it comes to shaping this dough, it couldn’t get any simpler: cut the dough into equal pieces and roll the balls between the palms of your hands to smooth them out. The recipe makes pretzel bites that are about 2-3 bites (depending on how big your mouth is!) per piece, so the balls of dough are large enough to be easy to work with as you shape them. Once they’re rolled out, they only need a few more minutes to rest until you’re ready to cook them.
Cooking pretzels is a two step process. First, the balls of dough are dunked in hot water that has a generous amount of baking soda in it. This brief bath sets the outside of the pretzel balls, ensuring that they will have a thick and chewy crust after baking. They aren’t actually cooked in the hot water mixture, just left in there long enough to set that crust before they go into the oven. Sprinkle the balls generously with salt (if you, like me, enjoy salted pretzels) while they are still wet and before they go into the oven. Pretzel salt is a specialty salt used for pretzels that is particularly coarse and doesn’t melt away while the pretzels bake. Coarse or sea salt can be substituted if you don’t have traditional pretzel salt.
Bake the bites until they are golden, then serve them up while they are still warm. My favorite pretzel dip is whole grain mustard, but there are all kinds of spicy sauces and cheese dips that also make wonderful accompaniments. These are best on the day they are made, but leftovers can be stored until the next day. If you opt to make your bites smaller than mine, reduce the baking time by a couple of minutes.
Easy Homemade Pretzel Bites
3/4 cup water, warm (100-110F)
2 1/2 tsp (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda
pretzel salt or coarse salt
In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the water with the yeast and sugar. Stir and allow to stand for 5 minutes, until mixture is foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast mixture with remaining water, flour, vegetable oil and salt. Mix with a paddle attachment until dough comes together and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. If the dough seems very wet, add in an additional tablespoon of flour. Turn mixer up to medium and beat for 1-2 minutes. (This can be done by hand with a wooden spoon and a little bit of elbow grease). Dough should be elastic and spring back when touched.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Cut dough in half and shape each half into a rough log. Cut each log of dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll dough balls between your hands to give them a round shape. Set aside for 15 minutes, covered with a clean dish towel.
In a large skillet, combine 2 cups water with baking soda and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and place the dough balls
In a skillet or saucepan, combine 2 cups water with the baking soda and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and place the dough balls into the water in small batches (4-6 at a time).
Cook for about 30 seconds, turning once, then remove from the water with a slotted spoon and arrange balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with pretzel salt while still wet.
Bake pretzel bites for 16-19 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Makes 20 pretzel bites.