When I was in Fort Myers last summer visiting my cousin Jaime, she introduced me to pretzel bread. I am a lifelong soft pretzel fan, but had never seen it in loaf form, just the usual twists and nuggets. The bread Jaime had was rich and buttery with a golden pretzel “crust” and lots of coarse salt. It was addicting and delicious, and once I had it, I knew I didn’t want to live without it.
It took me awhile to get working on a batch myself, but this weekend’s snowstorm gave me the perfect opportunity. The extra step where you boil the dough in a bath of baking soda is what makes it pretzel bread, but don’t be alarmed by the extra step. It’s easy and kind of fun.
After just 25 minutes in the oven, they were perfect. Also, anything that gets melted butter slathered on it right out of the oven can’t be bad.
Having two small loaves is helpful for portion control, but it also makes this pretzel bread recipe perfect for gift giving. If you can part with one.
My house smelled like that pretzel stand at the mall. It was awesome – and dangerous.
In an attempt to be civilized, I decided to make mini grilled cheese sandwiches with the bread using Cabot shredded cheddar, sliced onions, and fancy mustard. The results were heavenly. One of my top grilled cheeses of all time…
Make this bread. Make it right now! It’s that good…
Adapted from Two Bites in Suburbia
1 packet (2 1/4 tsps) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 – 120 degrees)
2 Tbsp. milk, room temperature
1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar
3 Tbsps. melted butter, room temperature
1 tsp. coarse salt
3 cups bread flour (spooned and leveled)
4 quarts of water
1/2 cup baking soda
Coarse salt to taste
2 Tbsps. melted butter
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, milk, brown sugar, and butter. Let the mixture rest for 10 minutes so the yeast come alive.
- Mix in the coarse salt, then the flour, one cup at a time. The dough will be tacky.
- Spray a large bowl with cooking spray or coat with oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, flip to coat on both sides, and cover with plastic wrap for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Return the dough to the bowl, flip to cover both sides, and re-cover for an hour, or until roughly doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bring 4 quarts (16 cups) of water to a boil. Gently deflate the dough and cut in half using a sharp knife or bench scraper. Shape each half into a round loaf.
- Slowly add the 1/2 cup of baking soda to the boiling water (it will bubble). Place one piece of dough onto a large slotted spoon and gently lower into the boiling water. Use the spoon to flip the dough in the boiling water for around 20 seconds, then lift the dough out of the water with the slotted spoon – allow the excess water to drip back into the pot.
- Set the dough onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat the water bath with the remaining dough. Sprinkle both rounds with coarse salt, then slash an X on the top of each with a sharp knife so the bread can expand while it bakes.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through.
- Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter.
- Enjoy like nobody is watching, meaning it’s okay to eat a whole loaf in one sitting. You won’t be able to help it…
Yield: 2 small loaves