Pennsylvania is the pretzel capitol of the U.S.—literally, four-fifths of the pretzels you buy in stores are baked here—so we know our pretzels. We didn't invent homemade pretzels. They came over from Germany and surrounding areas with the Pennsylvania Dutch (Dutch actually was a misspelling of Deutsche, which is to say, Germans), but it is here that they became an industrial-scale success.
Pretzels trail behind potato chips and tortilla chips as the most popular snack foods in the U.S., and sales have been declining over the last few years. One reason for that could be that commercial versions have become so salty and are made with unhealthy refined flour.
Take a lesson from the Pennsylvania Dutch and make your own; you can avoid all that unhealthy junk and make a snack that's actually good for you (and good for, say, watching a big football game).
Perfect Soft Homemade Pretzels
Makes 6 large pretzels
1 teaspoon baking yeast (about ½ a packet)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar or 1½ teaspoons honey
1 cup warm organic milk (approximately 110ºF)
3 cups organic white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
Coarse salt for sprinkling (optional)
Mix yeast, sweetener, and milk and let sit for a few minutes.
Add the 1 teaspoon salt to your flour, and then add the flour to the yeast/sugar/milk mixture a little at a time until your ball of dough sticks together and is slightly tacky. Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. If you have a mixer or food processor with a dough hook or blade, you can mix and knead the dough rapidly in that.
Cut the ball into 6 equal parts and form each into a long, thin rope about 15 inches long. Toss a damp tea towel over the dough ropes, and set them aside.
Read More: Homemade Bread, No Kneading Needed
Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil, preheat your oven to 425ºF, and line a cookie sheet with a silicone sheet or parchment paper lightly oiled with vegetable oil.
Form a circle with the first rope, cross the ends then twist them to create a pretzel shape, putting a few drops of water on the spots where the dough touches itself. Pinch the dough together firmly so it sticks. You can skip this step if you want, and simply make soft pretzel logs or hoops, or use scissors to snip the ropes into 1-inch bites.
Use a large slotted spoon to lower your pretzel or pretzel bites into the boiling water. Once it floats to the surface, use the spoon to flip it over in the water a few times. Scoop it out and place it on the prepared cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt as desired. Repeat for each pretzel. Put the pan into the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the pretzels are starting to brown a bit.
Enjoy hot or cold, but they are best freshly baked. Here in PA we love to eat soft pretzels dipped in mustard!