Soft Rye Pretzels are good to have around for snacks, especially if you’ve got a good, ice cold local beer. Whether you eat them with whole grain mustard or plain the flavor in these holds up to it all. Really, speaking as an experienced soft pretzel enthusiast I can tell you that these are amazing.
Pretzels are comfort food for me. We lived just outside Philadelphia through many of my elementary years. I can remember shopping downtown with a sharp, blustery wind pulling at the neck of my coat and trying to inch it’s way up my plaid jumper. While knee socks kept the lower part of my chubby legs warm above the knee was prickly and burning from tiny ice crystals crashing into my skin, pushed by the unrelenting wind. My hair was pulled from my hood and whipped around my face and I can remember that more often than not my hands were busily trying to keep it out of my eyes and mouth.
The sky was a steely gray, promising the possibility of a snow day soon. Pretzel vendors were sprinkled around the city like the poppy seeds on my favorite bagels. The vendors were always fat and jolly in my memory, blowing on their cold hands or holding them near the warm window that protected the pretzels. The warmth oozed up from the cart and pushed the scent of ice and snow away — replacing it with a comforting, sharp yeasty aroma. I never had to ask. My dad would look at my face, his soft brown eyes as warm and comforting as the pretzels themselves. He’d smile and lead me over to the vendor where he’d reach in his pocket for the coins that meant one of those chewy breads was going to be warming my hands in mere moments. He’d talk to the vendor as if they had been friends forever and invariably the vendor would hunt until he found the two largest, saltiest pretzels in the bunch. He’d reach in with his grubby, meaty hands and hand us our pretzels with a grin. A quick squirt of yellow mustard and then a wave and smile as we walked away, chewing and happy.
Dad always said that you just haven’t eaten a real pretzel until you had it like that, grubby hands and all. I tend to agree. These big, soft, chewy rye pretzels take me right back to those days.
These rye pretzels can be served hot but you’ll probably want to forgo the grubby hands. The addition of rye creates a deeper, more complex flavor that goes well with beer and cheese. I think of these when I am thinking of football season and times like that. The rye flour doesn’t have a lot of gluten so you want to be sure to use a high gluten bread flour with it to get a good texture.
Forming the rye pretzels isn’t difficult. You’ll roll out a rope, make an oval with legs, twist once, then a second time, and pull back up and over the top of the oval. Much harder to explain than it is to do. Here is a visual step by step.
See, you can do this!
Pretzels have to go into a water bath before they are baked. This is what gives them the unique texture and flavor. Make sure your water is simmering and not boiling or too still. If the water is boiling too hard you risk your pretzels falling apart. If the water is too cold they will soak up too much water and the texture will be off. Just a gentle simmer is perfect. Use a timer and time the simmering times carefully.
I used to make pretzels with the kids. It’s a fun family activity for a rainy afternoon. Rye pretzels help make memories, trust me. I am the pretzel expert, remember?
Rye Pretzels Are Soft and Chewy, Easy and Addictive
- 2 cups warm water (110F)
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3 cups bread flour
- 2 cups rye flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Pink coarse salt or other coarse salt for topping
- 6 cups water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Add the water and sugar to the yeast and set it aside for 5 minutes.
- Mix the bread flour, rye, and salt together.
- Add the flour to the yeast mixture and mix on medium speed until a dough forms.
- Knead with a dough hook for 5 minutes or by hand for 8 o 10 minutes.
- The dough will be slightly soft and just a little tacky but not sticky.
- Put in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 2 hours - or until double.
- Preheat the oven to 450F
- Grease two cookie sheets.
- Heat the water to a simmer.
- Deflate the dough and knead gently.
- Divide it into 16 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece into an 18 inch rope.
- Make a loop with each rope and cross over the ends.
- Cross the ends once more and bring the loop over the ends to make a pretzel shape.
- Repeat with each rope.
- Add the baking soda and sugar to the water.
- Slide three pretzels at a time into the water.
- Cook for 2 minutes then turn and cook one more minute.
- Remove from the water, let drain, place on cookie sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Repeat until all of the pretzels are done.
- Bake in the 450F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden.
- Eat warm.
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