Let me tell you guys something.
There is a reason that I am not a pretzel maker. One word. Patience.
I don’t have enough of it. Not for pretzels, at least. If I am going to make something that takes a year to make, it better sing and dance and make my mouth feel like an explosion of heaven just occurred inside.
Don’t get me wrong, these pretzels are good. And maybe, for the average person, they are just fine to make. Maybe, if I didn’t try to make them right smack in the middle of 4 kids just waking up from nap, it would have been a little easier. My timing. I gotta work on it.
But when a recipe calls for you to do something SLOWLY, I take that as a suggestion. And it turns out, that is not always a good idea.
Sometimes, you just really have to follow the rules. Or you have something on your hands that looks a little like this.
Look, don’t let me dissuade you from making these pretzels, though. They actually aren’t half bad for you and let’s be honest, they aren’t REALLY all that hard to make. And when you add caramel dipping sauce to the whole mix, everything really starts to be worthwhile. But, in order to save you from the mess you see above, let me clue you in on a little something about these pretzels. NO SHORTCUTS! No shortcuts, people! When they tell you to add baking soda to boiling water SLOWLY, they mean slooooowly. Like, sprinkles at a time. No teaspoons, no tablespoons, no pours here and there. Sprinkles. Slow sprinkles. Because baking soda and boiling water like to bubble up and fizz and explode on contact. All over your kitchen. Unless you sit back, slow down, and take things slow.
Soft Pretzel Bites with Caramel Dipping Sauce
Makes about 60 bites, about 3 cups sauce
For the pretzels:
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 quarts water
3/4 cup baking soda
For the egg wash:
1 large egg
1 tbsp cold water
Coarse sea salt, for garnish
For the caramel sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- For the pretzels: Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray 2 baking sheets with cooking spray and set aside. Lightly coat a medium bowl with olive oil and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the water, brown sugar, yeast and melted butter. Stir with the dough hook to combine, then fit the attachment and let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes, or until slightly foamy.
- With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour until just combined.
- Increase the mixer to medium-low and knead until the dough is elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 3-4 minutes.
- Roll the dough into a ball gently with your hands, and place into a pre-oiled bowl, and cover with a light towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Punch down the dough and turn onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions.
- Roll each portion into a long rope, about 18-20 inches in length. I found that it was easier to actually hold the dough between my hands and roll back and forth, starting in the middle and working my way up. Turn the dough around and repeat, working your way up to the other end. This way, gravity helps do most of the work.
- Cut each rope into 1-inch portions and place each one on your greased baking sheet. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a LARGE saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring the water up to a boil. Very CAREFULLY and SLOWLY add the baking soda. Remember, no shortcuts!
- In small batches, boil the pretzel bites for about 30 seconds or so. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and place them back on the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.
- For the egg wash: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and cold water. Lightly brush the boiled pretzel bites with the egg wash and lightly sprinkle with the coarse sea salt.
- Bake until lightly golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.
- For the caramel sauce: In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
- Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and milk, stirring to combine. Increase the heat to medium and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the cinnamon and vanilla. Serve warm or cold, whichever way you like!