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The traditional shape of the pretzel is said to show children’s arms formed in prayer, creating three holes that represent the holy trinity.
Hands-on: 40 minutesTotal: 10 hours 10 minutes
- 2 cups plus 2 quarts water, divided
- 1¾ tsp. active dry yeast (1 package)
- 5 cups bread flour
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 tsp. plus 4 tsp. kosher salt, divided
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- 3 Tbsp. baking soda
- 1 large egg
- ⅛ tsp. table salt
- ¼ cup pretzel salt
- To make the sponge, combine 1 cup water and yeast, stir to dissolve, and let stand 5 minutes. Add 1 cup bread flour and beat 1 minute. Cover and let stand at room temperature 8 hours.
- Add to the sponge additional 1 cup water, sugar, oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 8–10 minutes. Add flour only to reduce stickiness. Return to bowl, dust with flour, cover with plastic, and rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Spray a baking sheet with pan spray and sprinkle with cornmeal. Turn risen dough onto a floured surface. Shape into a rope, about 3" thick. Slice into 2" pieces, then roll each into a tight ball. Leave balls on the floured surface, dust with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and proof for 10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Combine 2 quarts water with baking soda and remaining kosher salt in a large, deep skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Working with one roll at a time, roll into a thin rope about 1½" long. Form into a pretzel knot by bringing the ends of the rope into the center, crossing them, and attaching to opposite ends by pressing firmly.
- Drop each pretzel into simmering liquid and poach 30 seconds on each side. Remove, tap off excess water, and place on baking sheet, seam-side down. Mix egg with table salt and brush lightly onto bagels. Sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake until brown, about 15–20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.