I chuckled when I read an op-ed piece in which someone railed against people learning how to bake sourdough bread during this coronavirus pandemic. To summarize, her conclusion was: It's SO wasteful. Start with something easier.
Hmmm...maybe she thinks that people who bake sourdough actually discard the "discard." I've been on this sourdough journey for just over a week. I've baked almost a dozen loaves of bread, given one starter to a friend, and made - now two - other baked goods using the sourdough starter instead of yeast. I don't discard anything. So, what part is wasteful? I'm confused.
How to Shape a Pretzel
And before we get started on the recipe, I'm going to share how I shape a pretzel. My boys laughed and laughed at me while I tried to figure this out because I am definitely spatially challenged. Maybe this will help someone else! Also, forgive my lack of artistic talent.
1: Roll out a rope, approximately 15" long.
3: Cross one end over the other.
Salted Sourdough Soft Pretzels
You can use whatever salt you want for this recipe. I had some beautiful salt blends that a friend had given me: The Imaginary Friends Sample Pack from Beautiful Briny Sea. The Campfire blend is hickory smoked sea salt, sumac, chili, and cumin; the French Picnic blend includes sea salt, mustard, garlic, and herbs; and the Friends Forever salt is just salt and granulated honey.
Ingredients makes 8
- 17 ounces all purpose flour (I use a kitchen scale, but I think this would be just shy of 4 C) + more as needed
- 1 T organic light brown sugar
- 3/4 C active sourdough starter (you can meet mine, it's called Dough-ba Fett!)
- 1-1/4 t salt (just basic salt here)
- 1 C whole milk
Cooking and Baking
- 8 to 12 C water
- 2 to 3 T baking soda
- artisan salt of your choice (or any kind of flake salt or pretzel salt)
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, and salt. Stir in the milk and sourdough starter until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. You can add small amounts of flour to keep the dough from sticking to the counter.
Once you have a smooth dough, form a ball and place it in a clean bowl. Cover the dough with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm spot for about an hour. The dough will be puffed up, but not doubled.
Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape them into pretzel. See my rudimentary drawings above if you don't know how to make the shape! Place these on a parchment paper or silicone mat-lined baking sheet.
Cooking and Baking
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In the meantime, pour water into a large cooking pot and stir in the baking soda. Bring the water to a boil, then hold it at a simmer.
Gently lift the pretzels from the baking sheet and lower them one at a time into the simmering water. Depending on the of your pot, you can probably do two at a time. You just don't want them to be crowded or touching. Let them simmer for 45 seconds, then flip them over for another 45 seconds.
Remove them to a wire rack and let them drain. Sprinkle each pretzel with the salt of your choice and return them to the baking sheet.
Once your sheet is full, place the pretzels in the preheated oven. Bake until they are golden brown or deeper, depending on your preference.
Mine took about 18 minutes...and looked like the photo above.
Let cool for at least 5 minutes before eating.
These are best enjoyed fresh out of the oven, but you can reheat them in the oven prior to serving if you need to. Jake and I dipped ours in two kinds of mustard, but the boys liked them plain.
You can follow the complete Adventures of Dough-ba Fett here.