As you may know, I am writing a cooking column about US food for an Austrian newspaper. Yes, Austrians are also allowed to do so ;-) I have been writing this column for almost two years now and the readers don’t seem to get tired so far – no, surprisingly they are getting more and more enthusiastic about American food. Yay!
As next Sunday is time to watch Super Bowl 50, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce my readers to some game day snacks. Last year I made loaded nachos (I simply looooove those), and with that I set the bar high for this year’s Super Bowl-food. I was thinking about pretzels with a genius-dip when a picture of pretzel bites popped on the screen (was it on Pinterest? Instagram? Whatever.) I knew immediately that I had to make the bites instead of their bigger cousins.
When developing a recipe, I always make several batches of the same dish. I ended up making three batches to figure out how to get perfectly fluffy Pretzel Bites. Turns out they were so good that I simply had to make two more batches after the recipe was finally published, all within a week or so *harrumph*. So can you guess how good they actually are?? You have no idea! They are the fluffiest Pretzel Bites I could ever imagine.
Accompanied by an extremely creamy cheese dip – and in addition a bacon-beer dip, they make sure you will forget any bad news. Even though if your team really messes up. The Patriots didn’t make it into the Super Bowl this year, and yet my good mood prevailed (→ only ‘cause of, you know). Since I do step-by-step recipes for my newspaper, you will find them here this way too. I included two methods for “pretzeling” them: Firstly, I make them in a baking soda bath; Secondly, I just brush them with some baking soda-wash. I don’t use food-grade lye since it’s caustic and therefore not really ideal for a home kitchen.
Please note: Andrea Slonecker, who wrote the cookbook “Pretzel making at home” uses a slightly different approach for her baking soda bath as she bakes the baking soda in the oven before she adds it to the water. I have not tried this method since I was already very happy with the pretzel-taste of the regular soda-bath approach. Find more information here; and here you can find a “how to” for her method in detail (scroll down to the notes in her recipe).
Step-by-step recipe for fluffy Pretzel Bites
Combine milk and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast to milk-sugar mixture and let it stand for 5 minutes to dissolve.
With a sturdy spoon, stir in butter, then 1/2 of the flour, and salt. Mix it thoroughly, and then add the remaining flour. Mix the ingredients until they come together to a sticky dough.
With floured or greased hands, try to fold the edges of the dough into the center a couple of times. If the dough is too sticky, add 1 more tablespoon (not more) flour, mix it into the dough and try again. If still too sticky, cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 5 minutes. After that, the dough is workable.
Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and knead until smooth, about 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should still be moist and a little sticky.
Oil a clean mixing bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Let it rise covered for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in bulk.
Transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface, and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Roll each of them into an 18-inch (45 cm) rope. This usually works best without any flour – sometimes even slightly moistened hands help. Cut each rope crosswise into 11 pieces.
Roll each piece back and forth, in case the bites have deformed due to cutting.
Option 1: Baking soda bath (has slightly more “pretzel”-taste but is a little bit more time- and work-consuming)
Transfer the pretzel bites onto one large or two smaller generously floured baking sheets lined with wax paper (see pic “cutting the dough”), giving each room to grow. Let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes until they have puffed up noticeably.
Put them in the fridge for 1 hour or pop them in the freezer for 10 minutes to get them firm so they hold their shape in the soda bath.
Prepare two sheets of parchment paper that will fit your baking sheets.
Bring 4 cups of water in a medium saucepan to a boil and carefully add the baking soda (it will foam up), stir to dissolve. A stainless steel saucepan is best; aluminum reacts with the baking soda. Remove the bites from the fridge, transfer the wax paper from the sheet to the counter, and line the baking sheets with parchment paper.
Remove the saucepan from heat and poach the bites for 20 seconds in solution (gently dip them under the water with a spoon after 10 seconds). Do this in batches, each about 10-15 bites. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to the prepared parchment-paper lined baking sheets (I need two sheets) with enough space in between them.
Immediately sprinkle them with salt or sesame – they only stick while the dough is moist – unless you brush them with egg wash. Continue until all pretzels are poached.
If you want your pretzel bites glossy, brush the bites with egg wash after you have poached all of them and sprinkle with sesame or salt.
Place the baking sheets into the oven and bake at 400 °F until the bites are golden brown (about 12-15 minutes).
Option 2: Brushing with baking soda wash
After cutting the dough into bites, transfer the them onto one large or two smaller baking sheets lined with parchment paper, giving each room to grow. Let them rest at warm room temperature for 30 minutes until they have puffed up noticeably. You don’t have to put them into the fridge.
Heat 1/4 cup of water – I usually heat it in a small bowl in the microwave until boiling – and then carefully add 1 teaspoon of baking soda (it will foam up), stir to dissolve. Thoroughly brush bites with soda wash. When you are finished brushing all of them, start from the beginning and brush them a second time. Immediately sprinkle them with salt or sesame – they only stick while the dough is wet – unless you brush them with egg wash.
If you want your pretzel bites glossy, brush the bites with egg wash after you have brushed all of them two times with soda wash, and sprinkle with sesame or salt. I usually finish one baking sheet, put it into the oven and in the meantime I prepare the second sheet.
Place the baking sheet into the 400 °F preheated oven and bake until the bites are golden brown (about 12-15 minutes).
Let the pretzel bites cool for a few minutes and serve them warm with your favorite dip.
I simply love them dipped into a cremy cheese sauce.
Did you follow this recipe? You could share your result here. All you need to do is take a picture with your smartphone and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org Blog reader Asya followed the recipe: "Dear Little Vienna, I love your blog and your recipes!!! I always follow exactly and always have excellent results! I love that your recipes are always proportioned just right for two people :) Here is this night's batch of pretzels. For reference for other readers this was my yield with the exact proportions (weighed out) in the recipe. Thank you for a great blog!"