Hilah visits an Austin beer garden to learn the secret behind their delicious soft pretzels, then shows you how to make your own at home.
1/2 cup warm water (95-115°F)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (1/4 ounce)
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup beer (lager preferred)
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Kosher or flaked sea salt for sprinkling
For dipping: 4 cups warm water, 1/3 cup baking soda
To make your fake lye bath: Line a small baking sheet with foil and spread the 1/3 cup baking soda on it. Bake in a 250°F oven for one hour while you make the pretzel dough.
In a large mixing bowl (hopefully a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment) combine the warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
Add the beer, butter, and flour and begin mixing. After a minute or so, add a little more beer or water if needed to bring the dough together into a ball, or a little more flour if the dough is very wet. Add the salt.
Knead on low speed for 5-7 minutes until a firm, elastic dough is formed.
Rub a little butter all over the dough ball, place back into the bowl, and cover with a damp cloth. Set aside for 30 minutes (or refrigerate covered in plastic wrap overnight).
Cut the ball into 8 portions. On a clean, dry surface, roll each into a tapered snake, 24-28" long. The center "belly" of the snake should be about 50 percent fatter than the ends. Don't flour the surface. You need some friction for the dough to roll properly. In fact, if it refuses to "grip" the surface, dampen your hands with water and then continue rolling out.
Bring the ends of the snake up, twist them once, then lay them down onto the "belly" to make a pretzel shape. Place on a greased parchment paper sheet.
Now in a wide, deep pan combine the baked baking soda and water to dissolve. Add the baking soda a little at a time to prevent it from clumping up.
One by one, carefully transfer the pretzels into the water bath, turning once. Each side of the pretzel should be in the water for 10 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay on a baking sheet lined with greased parchment, spacing an inch apart (you will need to use two trays or bake in two batches).
Sprinkle with coarse sea salt or pretzel salt while still wet. Allow to rise 30 minutes while your oven heats to 475°F. Position your oven racks to the middle and upper third.
Bake 8-12 minutes or until dark brown, rotating the trays half-way through.
Serve warm with butter, mustard, or just cold beer.