I remember being very young and making homemade soft pretzels with one of my babysitters. I thought it was the most incredible thing in the world – this may have been the point in my life that I realized that you can make anything you can find in a restaurant at home, a simple but life-changing realization. My love of soft pretzels continued throughout elementary and high school, when I would go shopping with my friends and (cringing now at how many I must have eaten) we would stop at Auntie Anne’s for a cinnamon-sugar pretzel.
While moving to New York might have increased the amount of soft pretzels I consumed due to the fact that there is a cart on every corner, it definitely turned me off of them a bit. I think that some of those pretzels must sit for days.
Only recently has the habit of eating soft pretzels kicked up again in my life. Jason pretty much lives off of bananas and various forms of pretzels, so I have taken a couple of whacks at making them myself. Luckily, we also live around the corner from Loreley, which has some of the best soft pretzels in NYC. Of course when I went to Berlin the soft pretzels were out of control. Going to a biergarten? You will end up eating at least 1 pretzel and 1 bratwurst. Stopping at a cafe for lunch? Sandwiches on pretzel bread.
So when I received Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table as a gift a few weeks ago from none other than Jason himself (he admits that he may have given it to me for selfish reasons), I had to try out his recipe for Caraway pretzels.
TIP: My pretzels came out a little too hard. He says to use 4 cups of flour but I would start with 3 and slowly add more as needed. Some flours are just more dry than others.
From Marcus Samuelsson “New American Table”
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon sea salt
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 large egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Caraway seeds
In a large bowl, (or an electric mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one) combine the yeast, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and the flour and mix until a dough forms. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave overnight at room temperature to rise. *The more warm and moist the environment, the faster it will rise.
On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough evenly into 12 pieces. Roll out each piece into an 8-inch long rope and then shape into a pretzel. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let sit in a warm place to rise again, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°.
Combine 4 cups water with the baking soda in a large pot and bring to a boil. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding, drop the pretzels in the water for 20 seconds each. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to another parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush the pretzels with the egg wash and sprinkle with the cheddar cheese, caraway seeds, and the 1 tablespoon sea salt. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.