Garlic Butter Soft Pretzel Bites

I declare soft pretzels in their many forms to be my all-time favorite snack food with ZERO exceptions. Sure, there are many other delicious things with which to satisfy a snack attack, but there is nothing to compare to the pure satisfaction of biting into a chewy, salty, warm, soft pretzel. With mustard. Lots of mustard*.

*I suppose, strictly speaking, that the mustard is optional, but not for me. No way. I need a good schmear of mustard, be it fancy-pants grainy or generic yellow squeeze bottle variety.

I’ve eaten soft pretzels that were hanging for goodness knows how long in glass boxes on metal hangers under heat lamps at hockey and baseball games, from the depths of steam-table street-cart vendors in Germany, microwaved from little boxes and from mall food courts. They were all more or less edible, some more edible than others. I’m looking at you Germany. You make a mean pretzel.

It takes a lot of work to really botch a soft pretzel. It can be done, mind you, but you have to put some serious effort behind the failure. I’ll happily consume even a mediocre soft pretzel over a milkshake any day of the week. (Although a soft pretzel/milkshake repast would be ever so delightful.)

Howevah… Truly wonderful soft pretzels are a thing of joy. And homemade soft pretzels are past wonderful and parked firmly in the “The Best Soft Pretzel You’ll Ever Have” camp.

One marvey thing about homemade soft pretzels is that you can cook them to whatever level of pretzel brown-ness you love best. Most of the time I like them deep, deep brown; I like them to look almost like they’ve put one little pretzel toe into overdone territory. They fool you, those little beauties. When done to that stage, the outside is chewy to the point of making you look like a dog with a rawhide but they’re still soft on the inside. Of course, if your teeth or jaws like a little less fight from the food, you can back off the cooking time and go for a more golden brown. They’re still sublime.

For these little honeys, I like to make quick work of the process and simply roll the dough into ropes then cut into bite sized pieces. If you prefer the traditional braided pretzel, you’re welcome to do it, but the roll-and-cut method yields one-to-two bite pretzels in record speed. Besides, I have a thing for bite sized food. It’s small so it has fewer calories so you can eat more, right? Right?!?

And when you’ve gone to the effort of making your own pretzels, why not top the knob? Garlic butter is everything a soft pretzel ever wanted and more. It leaves your fingers buttery and garlicky and you are forced -nay, compelled!- to lick your fingers your fingers clean of salt and garlic butter after each perfect little pretzel bite.

I have a promise to make to you. If you lay out a platter full of these, a bucket full of iced root beers or fruit spritzers, and a pile of napkins for a party or a picnic or a bunch of your kids’ friends, you will be the most popular person/spouse/parent/loved one in. the. world. This is my boys’ friends’ most often requested snack. I always say yes. Always. It’s part of my master plan to be the go-to house. I’d ask my kids’ friends whether it’s working, but their mouths are currently full of soft pretzel.

 

Garlic Butter Soft Pretzel Bites

Scroll to the bottom for an easy-print version of this recipe!

Yield: A bunch

Ingredients for dough:

  • 4 cups (1 pound 1 ounce, by weight) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder (preferably) or sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup hot tap water
  • 2 teaspoons SAF or instant yeast

Ingredients for pretzel boil:

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda

Ingredients for toppings:

  • 1 egg white, whisked until frothy
  • Coarse sea salt, kosher salt or pretzel salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted, mixed with 1/2-1 clove garlic, peeled and minced (or 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic)

To Make the Dough by Hand:

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast.  Set the whisk aside and switch to a sturdy wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and tap water until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a generously floured surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from adhering to the counter. You do not want a firm dough… it should be fairly slack,  a little tacky and soft, yet smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.

To Make the Dough by Stand Mixer:

In the work-bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Mix on low just to combine dry ingredients. With mixer still on low, carefully pour in the milk and water. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.

To Make the Dough by Bread Machine:

Add the milk, water, flour, malt powder or sugar, and yeast to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “Dough” or “Dough Only” cycle and hit start. Allow the cycle to complete.

To Form Pretzel Bites:

Line two 11×13-inch baking sheets with silicone or teflon pan liners. Set next to your work area.

Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into four pieces. Keep  three pieces covered with a tea towel while working with the first. Roll the piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of two thumbs squashed together. Use your bench knife to cut 1-inch pieces from the dough snake. Transfer the dough pieces onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between pieces and rows. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.

To Cook the Pretzels:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enameled cast-iron, tempered glass, etc…) When water boils, add the baking soda. Gently lift the pretzel dough pieces one at a time into the boiling water. (You can boil more than one at a time, but be sure not to crowd the the pan as they will expand as they boil.  Let simmer for about 45 seconds, flip the pieces and simmer for another 45 seconds-1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to drain and return each piece to its place on the pan. Continue until all pieces have been boiled and returned to the pan.

Brush all pieces of dough with the frothy egg white and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place pans in oven and bake at least until golden brown (at least 15 minutes), but you can bake until they are deep brown. It’s up to you!

Remove the pans from the oven and brush the pretzels with the garlic butter. If you have leftover garlic butter, you can place the pretzels in a large mixing bowl and toss with the remaining butter.

Serve warm or room temperature. I like mine with classic yellow mustard.


Garlic Butter Soft Pretzel Bites
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Appetizer
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Perfect, chewy, rich-brown, garlic butter brushed two-bite soft pretzels. Alone or with a cold root beer, these make the perfect after school snack or party food!
Ingredients
  • Ingredients for dough:
  • 4 cups (1 pound 1 ounce, by weight) bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon non-diastatic malt powder (preferably) or sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup hot tap water
  • 2 teaspoons SAF or instant yeast
  • Ingredients for pretzel boil:
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • Ingredients for toppings:
  • 1 egg white, whisked until frothy
  • Coarse sea salt, kosher salt or pretzel salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted, mixed with ½-1 clove garlic, peeled and minced (or ¼ teaspoon granulated garlic)
Instructions
  1. To Make the Dough by Hand:
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Set the whisk aside and switch to a sturdy wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and tap water until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a generously floured surface and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from adhering to the counter. You do not want a firm dough... it should be fairly slack, a little tacky and soft, yet smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
  3. To Make the Dough by Stand Mixer:
  4. In the work-bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, malt powder or sugar and yeast. Mix on low just to combine dry ingredients. With mixer still on low, carefully pour in the milk and water. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
  5. To Make the Dough by Bread Machine:
  6. Add the milk, water, flour, malt powder or sugar, and yeast to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the "Dough" or "Dough Only" cycle and hit start. Allow the cycle to complete.
  7. To Form Pretzel Bites:
  8. Line two 11x13-inch baking sheets with silicone or teflon pan liners. Set next to your work area.
  9. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface. Use a bench knife to cut the dough into four pieces. Keep three pieces covered with a tea towel while working with the first. Roll the piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of two thumbs squashed together. Use your bench knife to cut 1-inch pieces from the dough snake. Transfer the dough pieces onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between pieces and rows. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.
  10. To Cook the Pretzels:
  11. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  12. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enameled cast-iron, tempered glass, etc...) When water boils, add the baking soda. Gently lift the pretzel dough pieces one at a time into the boiling water. (You can boil more than one at a time, but be sure not to crowd the the pan as they will expand as they boil. Let simmer for about 45 seconds, flip the pieces and simmer for another 45 seconds-1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to drain and return each piece to its place on the pan. Continue until all pieces have been boiled and returned to the pan.
  13. Brush all pieces of dough with the frothy egg white and sprinkle with coarse salt. Place pans in oven and bake at least until golden brown (at least 15 minutes), but you can bake until they are deep brown. It's up to you!
  14. Remove the pans from the oven and brush the pretzels with the garlic butter. If you have leftover garlic butter, you can place the pretzels in a large mixing bowl and toss with the remaining butter.
  15. Serve warm or room temperature. I like mine with classic yellow mustard.
Notes
There is at least an hour or so of inactive prep time while your dough is rising.

 

Comments

  1. Mmmmmm. These look delicious! I think I just may have to give these a whirl.

  2. How fantastic are these? Yum – agreed you would be the most popular person around, for sure!

  3. P Begley says:

    I share your love for soft pretzels. So so much. I had just had some recently on a pub night with friends and it had me hankering for more. When you published this post it was like a gift from pretzel heaven, a pretzel prayer answered.

    So, I printed out your recipe and made them last night. How easy? I made them AFTER a long day of working at my shop. How delicious? I’m WRECKED with joy! My sister comes over on Sundays and she has already DEVOURED several; I’ll be sending some home with her for the niece and nephew.

    Thank you, a million times, thank you!!! P~

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