After a little tweaking I came up with a perfect whole wheat soft pretzel recipe. These pretzels are soft and chewy, slightly sweet and completely delicious. They are awesome served warm with spicy brown mustard.
I based the recipe on Alton Brown's recipe but I needed to make it dairy free and I wanted to make it whole wheat. In my opinion, the egg wash is unnecessary and a silicone mat is a better option that greasing the pan. Upping the yeast to a full tablespoon helps the whole wheat dough rise to its full potential.
Below is the recipe as I made it.
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 T Sugar
2 t salt
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 stick Earth Balance vegan margarine
10 cups water with 2/3 cup baking soda
Combine the 1 1/2 cup warm water, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir to dissolve. At this point you can proof the yeast. If you know your yeast is viable (fresh and stored properly), you can skip this step, it will still work perfectly fine.
Add the melted and cooled Earth Balance. Be sure your margarine is not too hot or it may kill your yeast.
Stir in the whole wheat flour and add enough of the all purpose flour to form a dough. I start with the whole wheat flour, then add the all purpose flour. The atmosphere and weather can affect how much flour you will ultimately need, and I want to make sure I will have the full amount of the whole wheat flour in my final product.
Knead the dough 8-10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. (see below for the best way I have found to proof the dough)
Punch down the dough and divide into 12-14 pieces. Cover the dough with plastic wrap while you are working so that it doesn't dry out. Roll the dough into long ropes and shape the pretzels. Alternately, you can cut the rope into 2 inch segments to make pop-able pretzel nuggets.
Meanwhile, mix the 10 cups of water and baking soda in a wide shallow pan. Make sure you add the baking soda before the water heats. If the water is hot when you add baking soda it will bubble over and make a big mess. Once the baking soda is dissolved, bring it to a slow simmer. Using a slotted spatula carefully lower the shaped pretzels into the simmering baking soda solution. Only put 2-3 pretzels in at a time.
Remove the pretzels after about 30 seconds and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. While they are still damp, sprinkle each pretzel with pretzel salt. Regular coarse salt can be used, but the crumbly pretzel salt really makes them awesome.
Bake in a oven preheated to 450 degrees (F) for about 10 minutes until they are dark brown all over.
The best way I have found to proof yeast dough is in the microwave. You don't heat the dough with the microwave, but you create a warm steamy environment. Place 2 mugs of warm water in the microwave and cook them for 1-2 minutes until they are hot and steamy. Place your bowl of dough in the microwave and quickly close the microwave door to prevent too much temperature loss. The heat helps the dough rise and the steam keeps it from drying out or forming a skin.
Store the baked pretzels in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For pretzels you want to store, omit the pretzel salt sprinkled before baking, it will just melt off. Add the salt before reheating (See reheating instructions below).
brush each pretzel with a scant amount of water then sprinkle the salt all over. Warm the pretzel in the microwave for 15-20 seconds then toast them in a toaster oven. It seems like a complicated reheating process but its the best way to get the crunchy outside and warm chewy inside.
This is the best part of this post. My reward for those of you that read all the way to the end. These pretzels (or any soft pretzel recipe) wrapped around a hot dog make an amazing treat. Simmer in the baking soda solution and bake as previously described.