Words and Photo by Corinne Ognibene
I recently took a trip to New York City. On that trip I came across food vendor after food vendor lining the streets and filling the air with different aromas. As I was navigating my way around the city, one chilly day, I couldn’t help but try one of New York's infamous street vendor big soft pretzels! It was delicious – perfectly browned on the outside, fluffy and soft on the inside, and steaming hot. It was the perfect thing to warm me up, and it got me thinking… I’m a girl who loves her condiments, so I imagined how perfect this pretzel would be with a good honey mustard or cheesy dip. Thus, my idea for hot pretzels four ways was born. Soft pretzels are easy to get creative with, so I was having trouble narrowing my ideas down to just four types, but the flavors I eventually decided were honey mustard, jalapeno cheddar, garlic parmesan, and classic salted.
First things first, the pretzel base is the same for all varieties. This was adapted from Alton Brown’s homemade soft pretzels recipe. You will need:
1 ½ cups 110 to 115 degree F water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 oz all-purpose flour
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
In a medium sized bowl, heat up your 1 ½ cups of water to 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, Add sugar and kosher salt and give it a quick mix. Sprinkle yeast on top and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture looks foamy. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add flour and whisk to get out any lumps. Pour yeast mixture and melted butter in and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Switch to medium speed and knead until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This step could take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, make sure the bowl is clean and then spray it with cooking spray. Put the ball of dough back in the greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a dishtowel. Let it sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Lightly spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Set aside.
Bring the ten cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
While waiting for that to boil, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into eight equal pieces. Use your hand to roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other to make a twist in the middle and press onto the bottom of the U to form the classic pretzel shape. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan and continue with the rest of the dough.
Place the pretzels, one by one or two by two, into the boiling water for 30-40 seconds. Gently remove them from the water using a large flat spatula and return them to the half sheet pan. Cover the boiled pretzels in a slightly damp dishcloth while you finish boiling the rest of the batch. This is where the variations come in.
For classic salted pretzel:
Use a pastry brush to brush the tops of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the coarse salt.
For the Honey Mustard:
Mix two tablespoons of mustard (your preferred type) with one teaspoon of honey, an eighth of a teaspoon of sugar and a dash of salt. Use a pastry brush to brush this mixture onto each pretzel and sprinkle a little bit of the coarse salt on top.
For the Jalapeño Cheddar:
Brush pretzel with egg yolk and water mixture; sprinkle a generous amount of grated cheddar cheese onto the tops of each pretzel (doing your best to keep it on the pretzel and not on the sheet pan). Chop a jalapeno pepper into small pieces and sprinkle those on top of the cheddar cheese.
For the Garlic Parmesan:
Melt two tablespoons of salted butter and mince a clove of garlic. Mix the minced garlic with the melted butter and add a half-teaspoon of garlic powder. Use a pastry brush or spoon to spread this mixture onto the tops of each pretzel and sprinkle with a generous amount of grated Parmesan cheese.
After each pretzel has been topped, place them in the oven for approximately 12 to 14 minutes or until dark brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving, and enjoy!