A few years ago, I went through a serious soft pretzel phase. They were the first yeast bread-like item I’d ever made successfully, and I just couldn’t stop making them. It eventually got to be so ridiculous that I caved and had a “Soft Pretzel Week” on Savvy Eats, wherein I covered pretzel recipes, dip recipes, and pretzel food science.
Making soft pretzels became second nature, and after a time, I hardly even needed to measure the flour out – I could just tell from the feel of the dough if it was right or not.
And then, I just stopped. I’m not even sure why – maybe I felt a little burnt-out on pretzels, or the stockpile of frozen twists in the freezer was enough for a few months. I’m not sure what it was, but a few weeks ago, I found myself craving a good soft pretzel. And because I had an open can of pumpkin puree that needed to be used up, and because it is pumpkin month, I decided to replace much of the oil with the pumpkin puree.
It turns out that making soft pretzels is a bit like riding a bike – as I kneaded the dough, punched it down and shaped it into pretzels, it felt comforting and familiar. Except whereas when you ride a bike again after a long time away, all you get is a bike ride, when I made this old favorite recipe, I come away with warm, springy soft pretzels.
The pumpkin flavor here is incredibly subtle. As in, if you didn't know what you were tasting, you may not be able to pinpoint the flavor. But I think that's okay. The pretzels are still doughy on the inside, with a crisp, crackly shell, perfect for snacking or pairing with a bowl of chili. Plus, because the pumpkin replaces nearly all of the olive oil, they are much lower in fat, making them just a smidgen healthier. And as we head into the holiday season, every little bit counts, right?
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (just over 1 packet)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing and the pan
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- Coarse sea salt
- Combine the 1 1/2 cups of water, sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you've added three cups. Stir in the salt, pumpkin puree and oil, and then slowly add the rest of the flour. You may not need as much flour as the recipe calls for (or you may need more!) - stop when the dough no longer sticks to your fingers terribly when you touch it, and the dough looks floury and shaggy.
- Using the dough hook attachment of a stand mixer, knead the dough for 5-6 minutes, or until the dough forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Alternatively, knead the dough by hand until it forms a smooth ball.
- Pour a little olive oil over the dough ball (just a swirl or two from the bottle - about 1-2 teaspoons), and cover it loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow the dough to rise for about an hour, or until it approximately doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450F. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
- In a large stockpot, bring the rest of the water and baking soda to a boil.
- Meanwhile, divide the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 3/4"-thick long rope, curve into a U-shape, then cross the ends over to create the traditional pretzel shape.
- Boil each pretzel in the water and baking soda for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the pretzel to the greased cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
- Bake at 450F for 13-16 minutes, or until the surface is browned and starts to crackle. Immediately transfer to a cooling rack, and allow to cool at least partially before serving.
Make Ahead and Storage
Soft pretzels are best eaten with 36 hours, 48 if you really want to push it. Here's how to freeze the extras.