I wish there was something I could type to convey how much I loved these. Here's my futile attempt.
Two minutes after they came out of the oven, after I'd already inhaled two of them, I was wondering how my life had ever felt complete before I discovered soft pretzels.
Several hours later, as I was getting ready to go out and meet some friends, I slipped three of these pretzels into my handbag ("in case" I got hungry later). When I stupidly admitted to my friends that I had brought my homemade pretzels out with me, they enthusiastically depleted my pretzel stash. Sigh -- I was probably asking for it, right?
So, six hours after they came out of the oven, there were none left. And I woke up the next morning, and guess what was the first thing I wanted to make?
I can see already that these little vignettes are hopelessly inadequate. Just go make them. You probably have all the ingredients on hand in your kitchen. Don't be scared of the yeast -- they take less than 90 minutes, and they're worth it. Do you have kids? These will make their month.
And don't, all you New Yorkers, even compare these to the hardened semi-stale, enormous "soft" pretzels you can buy from the street carts at every corner in this city. These are something very, very different.
1 tsp active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp baking soda
1 cup hot water (as hot as your tap can get)
Dissolve yeast into water with a pinch of sugar, let stand 10 minutes, until the mixture is creamy colored. Mix the yeast mixture with flour, sugar, salt and canola oil, and knead until combined (a few minutes, not even 5). Let the dough rise in a greased bowl until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the dough has risen, pinch off a handful and roll it out into a long strand. Set aside. Repeat with the rest of the dough, about 6 times. Once all the strands are rolled out, pick up the first one and stretch it out again (the gluten will have relaxed and it should stretch further now). Twist it into a pretzel shape and place it on a baking sheet lined with silipat or cooking spray. Repeat with the rest of the strands.
Dissolve baking soda into hot water and stir until dissolved. Quickly dip each rolled pretzel into the mixture and place it back on the baking sheet. Sprinkle all the pretzels with sea salt, to your preference. Bake for about 8 minutes, until pretzels have browned.
Makes six medium-sized pretzels, but please double or triple this recipe, because they disappear quickly!