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Weekend Recipe: Ballpark Pretzels

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Photo courtesy America's Test Kitchen

Eating fresh, homemade pretzels is particularly satisfying. This America's Test Kitchen recipe, along with their helpful tips, makes the baking process a breeze. Using bread flour is highly recommended to get that perfect soft and chewy texture. Feel free to add some brown sugar to the dough and then give the pretzels a dip in an alkaline boiling water and baking soda mixture to give it a deep, rich color. Just make sure to let the pretzels dry off before baking.

Kosher salt is sprinkled on the exterior of the pretzels, but coarse pretzel salt can be used instead. Be sure to use kosher salt in the dough. Let the dough rise for 60 minutes, and once the pretzels are shaped they require another 20-minute rise before boiling and baking.

The pretzels will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two days. To freeze pretzels, be sure to wrap them well in plastic wrap for up to one month. Make sure to thaw frozen pretzels before reheating at 300 degrees for five minutes.

Ballpark Pretzels
Makes 12 pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 3/4 cups (20 2/3 ounces) bread flour
Kosher salt
1/4 cup baking soda

Lightly grease large bowl. In bowl of stand mixer, combine warm water, 2 tablespoons oil, sugar, and yeast and let sit until foamy, about 3 minutes. Combine flour and 4 teaspoons salt in separate bowl. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture. Fit stand mixer with dough hook and knead on low speed until dough comes together and clears sides of bowl, 4 to 6 minutes.

Turn out dough onto lightly floured counter and knead by hand until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer dough to greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 60 minutes.

Gently press center of dough to deflate. Transfer dough to lightly greased counter, divide into 12 equal pieces, and cover with plastic.

Lightly flour 2 rimmed baking sheets. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll into 22-inch-long rope. Shape rope into U with 2-inch-wide bottom curve and ends facing away from you. Crisscross ropes in middle of U, then fold ends toward bottom of U. Firmly press ends into bottom curve of U 1 inch apart to form pretzel shape. Transfer pretzels to prepared sheets, knot side up, 6 pretzels per sheet. Cover pretzels loosely with plastic and let rise at room temperature until slightly puffy, about 20 minutes.

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 425 degrees. Dissolve baking soda in 4 cups water in Dutch oven and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Using slotted spatula, transfer 4 pretzels, knot side down, to boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, flipping halfway through cooking. Transfer pretzels to wire rack, knot side up, and repeat with remaining 8 pretzels in 2 additional batches. Let pretzels rest for 5 minutes.

Wipe flour from sheets and grease with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle each sheet with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Transfer pretzels to prepared sheets, knot side up, 6 pretzels per sheet. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt evenly over pretzels.

Bake pretzels until mahogany brown and any yellowish color around seams has faded, 15 to 20 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Transfer pretzels to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve. These pretzels are best served warm, with mustard.

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