My family has had the joy of folding and baking soft pretzels in the 150-year-old Sturgis Pretzel Factory in Lititz, Pennsylvania, the oldest commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S. There’s nothing quite like rolling and then shaping the pretzel dough into its classic shape, and then seeing it placed into giant brick ovens on large wooden boards, all in the stone basement of a building that dates back more than 200 years. Pretzels themselves date to 6th century Italy, say the folks at Sturgis, where monks molded them into the shapes of children’s praying arms.
Baking pretzels at home offers the same delights – the pleasure of working with dough, the wonderful way it smells when it’s cooking, and of course, that classic soft-pretzel taste.
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups warm water (110° to 115°)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
8 cups water
½ cup baking soda
Coarse salt or mixture of equal parts cinnamon and sugar
Pat of butter, to grease bowl and dough
2 bowls, 1 greased
Paper towels and plate
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
Add the sugar, salt and 2 cups flour and beat until smooth.
Stir in remaining flour to form a stiff dough.
Turn onto a floured surface and knead about 5 minutes until smooth.
Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.
Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place about an hour, until doubled.
Punch dough down and divide into 12 portions. Roll each into thin rope (approx. 12”) and loop both halves up and back around to the middle to twist into a pretzel shape. Apply a little pressure to make the ends stick.
Preheat oven to 425.
In a large saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a boil. Place pretzels into boiling water, one at a time, flipping once, for 15 seconds on each side.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Place on greased baking sheets.
Brush with water and sprinkle with salt or cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks.
Yield: 12 pretzels
Gone: in about 2 hours
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman