Yesterday I was at a baby shower for a German friend, and German food was presented. It was then that I revisited the soft pretzel and mustard snack. Usually I’m disappointed in soft pretzels from the ubiquitous carts that dot the NYC streets; they’re often stale, cold, hard, unsatisfying. Better in theory than in practice.
Have you ever had a real German pretzel, from a real German bakery, fresh from the oven, all crispy and golden on the outside, soft on the inside, aromatic and dotted with sea salt and sunflower seeds? Dipped in honey mustard? Best. Shower. Snack. Ever.
adapted from Alton Brown
makes 8 pretzels
1 1/2 c. warm (110-115 degrees F) water
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (approx. 4 1/2 c.)
2 oz. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 c. water
2/3 c. baking soda
1 lg. egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
3/4 c. sunflower seeds, raw & unsalted
Combine water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 min. or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 min. Remove dough from the bowl, clean bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50-55 min. or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
Bring 10 c. of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt and sunflower seeds. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 min. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 min. before serving. Serve warm with spicy or honey mustard.