If you ask me how many pretzels I have been making lately, I will simply shrug. I’ve been trying so many different recipes I’ve actually lost count. I reckon I have too many pretzel-making plans. But to take a break from the search for the pretzel, I decided to deviate from all that white starch and make something a little healthier; still pretzels, yes, but with the addition of hearty whole wheat flour. I like eating whole wheat bread on a regular basis, mostly because I like the muted flavour of grains, and the nice texture to boot. Plus it’s really filling and great for digestion. There’s been a lot of attention given to the health benefits of whole foods lately, with companies coming out with their own variations of whole wheat this or whole grain that. So I figured, surely there exists a recipe that makes great-tasting whole wheat pretzels out there!
Off I went blog-hopping until I came across this particular one that just jumped out on me. It’s not just the fact that it garnered positive reviews, or that it had truly scrumptious-looking photos, although that is part of the reason why I chose this. I can’t fully explain it, just that the recipe simply called out to me, begging to be made. As odd as that may sound, I actually have half the mind to name these pretzels the one.
What was of note to me about these pretzels was the fact that not only does it have whole wheat flour, it also has zero refined sugar. You read that right- naught a single crystal. The only thing that sweetens these babies is honey, and it’s not made with that much butter either. I was expecting the texture to be somewhat rougher and drier than that of the ordinary pretzel because of the presence of the heavier whole wheat flour, but to my pleasant surprise, it’s even more pillowy, soft and fun to munch on than any of the pretzels I’ve previously made! I loved them so much in fact that even though I’ve had one for breakfast, I kept stashing away another one for my afternoon snack. Don’t tell anyone!
Honey Whole Wheat Pretzels
adapted and modified from Snippets of Thyme | Makes 8 large or 16 regular-sized pretzels
1 1/3 cups warm water, 110 to 115°F
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
300 grams all-purpose flour, approximately 2 1/4 cups
300 grams whole wheat flour, approximately 2 1/4 cups
60 grams unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the water, salt, yeast, flour, butter and honey. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
2. Lightly oil a large bowl and gently plop the dough in. Due to the whole wheat flour, the dough will be rough and not sticky at all. But it should be easy to handle. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.*
3. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
4. To prepare the water bath, bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
5. In the meantime, turn the doubled dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and divide into equal pieces (8 if making large and 16 if making regular-sized pretzels). Roll out each piece of dough into a long rope.** Make a U-shape with the rope. Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other twice, then bring the edges down and onto the bottom of the U, pressing the dough ends to make them stick. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
6. Using a slotted spoon, place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one for giant pretzels, two by two for regular ones. The pretzels will begin to look puffy. Remove them from the water after 30 seconds. Repeat until all the pretzels are done.***
7. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
*My dough did not double its size quite as obviously as doughs made of all-purpose flour do, although it did rise and grow bigger, so observe closely. I reckon it’s due to the heaviness of the whole wheat flour.
**The original recipe had instructions written for making 8 large pretzels, so it said to roll each into 24-inch long ropes. I didn’t measure my pretzels exactly, but after dividing my dough into 16, I rolled them into long strips with about a 1/2-inch diameter.
***This is an important step. This is the process that creates that crunchy exterior, chewy interior of the perfect pretzel. Do not use more or less baking soda than is stated and make sure to bring your water to a boil.
If you really must have some sugar, I imagine the regular cinnamon sugar topping would be a good choice. Or strawberry jam. I like strawberry jam a lot. I topped our pretzels with dried basil though. I think these pretzels are more suited for savory toppings as much as the regular pretzels are great for the sweet add-ons. The next time I make these, I’m thinking I’ll try a cream cheese-smoked salmon topping. Or a topping with small strips of cajun chicken and bell peppers, or finely chopped prosciutto and… asparagus? Oh my. I can’t wait to experiment!
What’s your favourite savory topping?