Healthy Homemade (Hard & Soft) Pretzel Primer

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Pretzels.  Soft and chewy or hard and crunchy, these doughy delights are simple to make and yummy to eat.

There are so many ways you can play with this recipe, depending on your mood.

I like my pretzels soft and chewy, served up with some snappish homemade mustard.

G likes to crunch and munch his pretzels - often they're the only lunch he manages to get down during his busy day in the classroom.

I wanted to see if I could come up with a basic dough that would work for either option, plus one that would be tinker-friendly, since I knew I'd want to throw in all sorts of extras, depending on our ever-changing taste buds.  I also knew I wanted to create a healthier version than what you can find in the store.

So, here it is, my basic pretzel dough recipe:

What You Need

1 1/2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon honey

4 cups whole wheat flour (can substitute 1 cup of flour with flax meal and 1/2 cup of flour with wheat germ)

2 1/4 teaspoons yeast

1/2 cup baking soda (for boiling of soft pretzels)

What You Do

1.  Dump all the ingredients into your bread maker (this one looks great!) set it for "dough cycle" and then go do something else for about an hour and a half.

If you want to make these by hand, first dissolve the yeast in the water, add the honey, add the flour and salt, then knead.  Let the dough rise once in the bowl (an hour), then again after you separate the dough into sections (30 minutes).
The dough will come out stickier than you think it should be, but once you begin rolling it out on your floured surface, it will be perfect!
2.  Separate the dough in half, then in half again, then continue to repeat with each piece until you have 16 equal pieces (if you want soft pretzels that are larger than mine, just don't divide the dough as much).

3.  Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll the dough by hand into snakes of desired thickness.
4.  Boil a large pot containing water and 1/2 cup of baking soda.  (for soft pretzels only)

5.  Reduce pot heat to simmer, add the pretzels, a few at a time, for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from water (I use a spider strainer) and place on a wire rack over a baking sheet.  Allow to dry for about 10 minutes, then move pretzels to baking sheet. (for soft pretzels only)
6.  For soft pretzels - bake at 475 degrees for 10 minutes.  For hard pretzels - bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.


1.  Traditional pretzel shape (roll, twist, and fold over)

2.  Rods

3.  Pieces

1.  Soft (bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes)
2.  Hard (bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes)

1.  Soft (in a paper bag, then in a Ziploc in the fridge - don't seal the Ziploc all the way)
2.  Hard (in a covered plastic container or bag in the fridge or on the counter)

1.  Flax meal (I add 1 cup in place of 1 cup of wheat flour)
2.  Wheat germ (I add 1/2 cup in place of 1/2 cup of wheat flour)
3.  Sunflower & pumpkin seeds (I just add whatever I'm in the mood for - usually about 1/4 cup each and I often pulse them in the Ninja (get yours here) to break them up a bit)

1.  Egg wash (I hardly ever do this - it definitely makes for a "prettier" pretzel, but we're not so into pretty (for pretzels, at least) around here and don't want to waste the egg.  Plus, I'm lazy.)

2.  Melted butter (I occasionally do this, depending on what I want to top them with or if I want them to taste especially fatty.)

3.  Cinnamon & sugar (if you're in the mood for a sweet pretzel)

4.  Garlic, poppy seeds, onion flakes, sesame seeds, other spices (think of your pretzel as a blank canvas, and have fun with the flavor combinations)

5.  Kosher salt (this is the way I make pretzels most often and I don't put anything else on them, but just roll the unbaked dough in the salt and it stays on fine)

6.  Mustard (this goes on after baking, or just dip your pretzel into it while eating - make your own here)

How do you prefer your pretzels?  Can you think of any other toppings you might enjoy?  Do you prefer to make dough in your bread maker, or manually?  Leave a comment or email me at lisahealy (at) outlook (dot) com.

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