It’s 7:58 am and I’ve already eaten a pretzel roll. I’ve lived in the Philly suburbs pretty much my entire life, and there are few things I love more than a really good soft pretzel: they’re cheap, chewy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside, and intensely savory. A recent conversation revealed that all of my trigger foods being with the letter P: pretzels, pizza and peanut butter. I’ve got good control of the peanut butter (I eat it every day but I weigh out one serving), good pizza is rare because we don’t spend the money for takeout very often, but soft pretzels around here are cheap and plentiful. Lately I’ve been indulging more than normal because if there’s a gathering of people around here, there’s a pretzel tray. Plus, pretzel buns are super trendy right now! You can get a burger on a pretzel bun at Wendy’s for goodness’ sake.
You can probably guess at how this idea came to be: Pinterest. There it was: this image of perfect little pretzel nuggets surrounding a molten pool of cheesy dip in a cast-iron skillet. How could I resist a recipe involving both pretzels AND a cast-iron skillet, my new favorite kitchen toy?! I couldn’t, obviously. I could, however, pass up molten cheese dip. I can justify eating pretzel rolls but not as a snack dipped in cheese, it had to be something marginally more healthy: chicken BLTs! But before I could get to that, I had to start the rolls!
So what makes a pretzel roll different than a standard roll? You boil the risen dough in a baking soda solution before baking. (Note: commercial soft pretzels are often boiled in a lye solution, but lye is too dangerous for use by most home cooks, so baking soda is substituted.) But before you boil the dough, you need to MAKE the dough! If you’ve made bread before, you know it takes quite a while for the rising process, so start this recipe early. I started this recipe at 8 am.
1) In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, add the water, yeast, salt and sugar. Stir and let rest 5-10 minutes until foamy.
2) Add the melted butter and 3 cups of the flour. Mix using the dough hook or a spoon until combined well. Add additional flour in 1/4 increments until you have a smooth dough that is moist but not sticky. Remove dough to a greased bowl. Cover with a plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in bulk (I set mine in the fridge for 4 hours, then set it on top of the stove for 2 hours, since I had the time).
3) Line 1 large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Spray or grease an 8 or 10-inch cast-iron skillet and set aside.
4) Gently deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. To shape the rolls, take a piece of dough and start forming a round, smooth ball by pulling the sides towards the center and pinching to seal. Place, pinched side down, onto parchment lined baking sheet. Continue until all of your rolls are shaped. Cover and let rest for 15-20 minutes.
5) Preheat oven to 425° F. and place oven rack in the middle position. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Slowly add the baking soda (*slowly, as it will bubble up a lot!). Place 2-3 of the rolls at a time into the water, seam side down. Boil for 1 minute and then carefully turn the roll over and boil for another minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to the same prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls.
6) Once all rolls are boiled, arrange in a ring in your greased cast-iron skillet, pushing them together so you fit all the rolls into a 10-inch skillet. Using a pastry brush, brush each roll with the beaten egg, making sure to coat all sides completely and then sprinkle each roll with a little pretzel or coarse.salt. Using a sharp knife, cut a slash in the top of each roll.
7) Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until very golden and they sound hollow when tapped.
So! You’ve successfully made delicious pretzel rolls, but NOW WHAT???
We topped ours with baked sliced chicken breast, crispy bacon, romaine lettuce, thick slices of heirloom tomato and olive oil light mayo, and served cucumber “chips” on the side. So yum!
So what do you think? Do you love soft pretzels enough to try to make these on your own? Let me know in the comments!