Pretzels at Home - Better than Going to Auntie Anne's!

A warm pretzel brushed with melted butter is a delicious treat just about any time of the year, but it is especially fun to make for Valentine's Day.

I know this is not a chocolate dessert (as so many other postings on this site) but I am going to start posting some of our other favorite family recipes here rather than posting the recipes on Make Time for Family

When I was roaming the aisles of Walmart recently I found Auntie Anne's At-Home Baking Kit.  The kit is convenient and it tastes good, but perhaps it is a bit pricey if you plan to use it often or if you plan to make a lot of pretzels.

Following is my favorite recipe for pretzels.  The recipe makes 8-10 large pretzels.

1 cup milk, luke warm
1 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
1 teaspoon salt

Baking Soda Mix (dip pretzel before baking)
1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups hot water
(Stir until baking soda is dissolved)

The easiest way to make this dough is in a bread machine.  Follow the directions for "dough" setting on the machine.  Allow the dough to rise about 30 minutes.

If you do not have a bread machine, or if you prefer to mix by hand, this is still an easy recipe.

Hand Mixing:
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk.  Stir in the brown sugar and olive oil.  In a measuring cup whisk together 2 1/4 cups flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Add to the yeast mixture.  Knead the dough until smooth.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.

Shaping the Dough:
When the dough is ready, pinch off 8-10 small balls of dough.  Shape each ball into a 30-inch rope.  The best way to shape the rope is to roll it on the counter and then lift it up into the air and grab each end and gently pull.  Make each rope about 30 inches long.  (Let the dough rest for a few minutes if it is not stretching.)

Take each rope and shape into a pretzel.  Begin with a "U" shape.  Wrap the ends around each other twice and then fold down to connect with the bottom of the pretzel.  (Watch the video below for a complete demonstration)

For Valentine's Day the pretzels could be shaped into hearts.

Dip the shaped pretzel into the baking soda/water mixture.  Place the pretzel on a towel to drain off the excess solution.  Place the pretzel onto a prepared cookie sheet.  

Sprinkle the pretzel with the desired topping (sea salt, parmesan cheese and shredded asiago are some of my favorites.)  For cinnamon sugar coating, wait until after the pretzel is baked.

Bake 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes  (Rotate the pan after 5 minutes)

Brush with melted butter.  

Cinnamon Sugar Coated Pretzel
Dip the baked pretzel into a bowl of melted butter.  Gently move the pretzel from the butter into a pie pan filled with cinnamon sugar.  Gently shake the pan to allow the cinnamon sugar to coat both sides of the pretzel.

Pretzel Dogs
Pretzel dough can also be wrapped around hot dogs before baking.

I think that the pretzels taste best when they are extremely thin.  A thicker rope makes a pretzel that tastes more like a dinner roll.  Have fun finding your favorite size and shape.

Auntie Anne's Pretzels Video Using their At-Home Baking Kit: