In my world, it’s always the right time for a pretzel. My love for the pretzel goes waaaay back to high school lunch. I was usually too lazy to pack a lunch for myself, and yet too cheap to want to buy anything from the cafeteria. But then I realized that at the snack counter, there were hot pretzels for sale for a dollar. And bright orange nacho cheese in a plastic cup for fifty cents. And a classy lunch tradition was born. I’d like to think that my tastes have gotten a tad more sophisticated, but who am I kidding? There’s a jar of queso cheese in my fridge right now.
These homemade pretzels are definitely a step up from the ones rotating in that heated case back at my high school. The dough is adapted from a bagel dough recipe, and it bakes up beautifully crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. I wanted to up the flavor, so I stuffed a filling of tangy marinara sauce, spicy pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese. Dipped in more pizza sauce or some ranch dressing, these pretzel twists are perfect snacking material for this weekend.
This pretzel dough comes from my trusty The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day. I made a much smaller batch of their recipe, added a pizza-inspired filling, and decided to create twisted ropes rather than traditional pretzel shapes to try and get as much filling in each rope as possible. When they came out of the oven, with just a bit of cheese oozing out and smelling like a cross between a pizza oven and a biergarten, I was pretty sure I had a winner.
Make the pretzel dough at least two hours before you want to shape and bake them. The dough needs that time for the yeast to work its magic and make it rise, and to develop flavor. I left mine overnight, and you could easily do this two or three nights in advance. The dough, like all of the versions in this book, is beyond easy. You stir together all of the ingredients, no proofing or kneading required, and then cover it and let it rise. If you are going to leave it more than two hours, put it in the fridge.
When you’re ready to get cooking, make the filling by mixing the pizza sauce, freshly grated cheese, and pepperoni. Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter, and press it with your fingers to shape it into a rectangle about the size of a piece of paper.
Cut the dough into ten roughly equal pieces, then spread a spoonful of filling onto each piece. Carefully roll up each piece by pinching the long edges together, being careful to enclose all of the filling. Then, gently roll and stretch each piece out into a rope that is doubled in length.
Twist two of the ropes together and repeat, making a total of five pretzel twists. Add the baking soda to the simmering water, bring it up to a boil, and drop in one of the pretzel twists. Cook for one minute, then flip it over with a slotted spoon and cook for thirty seconds more. Remove it and place it on paper towels to dry, then move it to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining twists.
Bake the twists for 25 to 35 minutes, until they are deeply golden brown. Cool for a few minutes, and serve with whatever sauce you fancy. Or be like me and do both pizza sauce and ranch dressing. Because we are always keeping it classy over here.
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
- ½ tablespoon active dry yeast
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 ¼ cups bread flour
- Coarse salt for sprinkling on the pretzels
- ⅓ cup pizza sauce
- ⅓ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ⅓ cup pepperoni, diced
- ¼ cup baking soda
- Pizza sauce, for serving
- At least two hours before you want to bake your pretzels or as many as five days ahead of time, prepare the dough. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar and water in a large mixing bowl. Add the bread flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is incorporated. You may need to use your hands (get them wet first) to add in the last bits of flour.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for two hours at room temperature. At this point you can proceed with the recipe or refrigerate the dough for up to five days. I made mine the night before I planned to bake.
- When ready to make the pretzels, mix together the filling. Mix the cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni in a medium bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer.
- Turn the dough onto a floured counter and dust it lightly with flour. Spread it out using your fingertips until it is about the size of a piece of paper. Cut the dough with a sharp knife or pizza cutter into 10 roughly equal rectangles. Spread a spoonful of the filling onto each rectangle, leaving a little bit of space at the edges.
- Use your floured hands to pinch each piece of dough into a rope. Then, using a combination of rolling and pulling, stretch each rope until it is about doubled in length, being careful not to open up the seams. Take two of the ropes and twist them together, then repeat with the remaining ropes to make five total twists.
- Add the baking soda to the water. Drop one twist into the water, making sure you have enough room so they don’t touch, and let it simmer for 1 minute, then flip over with a spoon and simmer it for another 30 seconds. Remove the pretzel with a slotted spoon and place it on paper towel, then move it to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels. If the pretzel seams start to open a bit and you can see some of the filling, don’t worry, as long as the filling isn’t falling out of the pretzel.
- Bake the pretzels for 25-35 minutes, until the pretzels are a deep golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce, ranch dressing, or the dip of your choice.