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A lot of people are needlessly intimidated at the thought of making an authentic gluten free soft pretzel recipe at home.
For some, it’s the soda bath (what the heck is that?!). For others, it’s rolling and forming the gluten free soft pretzel dough. Still others just aren’t that comfortable baking.
Me? Well, I can’t leave well enough alone.
I have a wonderful gluten free soft pretzel recipe that I developed in 2008. Yes, 2008! (I’ve been doing this gluten free thing for a long time). Yet, because I hadn’t made the recipe in so long, I decided it needed “tweaking.” You can probably guess the result.
Just so you know, I’ve improved my gfJules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour over the years since 2008, now making it with all non-GMO ingredients, among other things. I’ve also taken it to a new level when used in things like pie crusts, pastry and rolled doughs and cookies; everything else is still awesome, but these applications, in particular, are now made better than even when made with regular wheat flour (seriously, I hear this all the time from customers). I’d like to think my efforts to keep improving my pre-made blend are why it keeps being voted #1 Gluten Free Flour in the consumer choice Gluten Free Awards.
Back to the gluten free soft pretzel recipe … once in awhile when I try a really old recipe with my improved gfJules Flour, I find that I need to add a bit more liquid to get the dough where it needs to be. So it was when I tried this recipe again that I thought I should hedge my bets and add a bit more liquid to the dough when I made it.
However, I had just returned from a week away from my kitchen, driving around the northeast with my kids, not doing math. So instead of adding 8 tablespoons of water, I added 8 ounces of water (twice as much — oops!). The first batch was, well, concerning. They actually made great gluten-free pretzel buns, if you’re into that. Very flat and it was a struggle not only to braid them, but to tell they were ever braided once they’d baked!
Making a second batch, I realized my error and made them again, adding only the one tablespoon extra water I’d initially anticipated I would need. The dough was much easier to work with (no kidding, right?!), but these pretzels rose to kingdom come, then sunk (although they still tasted pretzel-y). The third batch I thought I had it all figured out, not allowing the pretzels to rise much at all before boiling, but they STILL rose too fast and were too puffy, looking rather unattractive after baking, truth be told.
So then I baked batch #4 and I bet you can guess where I netted out in the end: I was right all along with 8 tablespoons of water, as I wrote in the original recipe.
Is there a moral to this story? Well, my husband would tell you that it’s leave well enough alone, and he would also tell you that “even Jules makes baking mistakes and creates recipes that don’t turn out on the first try.”
The happy ending to all this, of course, is that each batch still tasted great. Kind of like saying that homely girl or boy in high school has a “great personality.” You know what I mean.
I did decide with the last batch to cut back on the yeast, and if you’ve made this recipe of mine before, you’ll notice that change. I usually like to tell people to just add one packet of yeast to breads and pizza doughs to make it easy, but in this case, I think you’ll find a nicer, more pretzel-y result if you measure out half of one packet per batch of gluten free soft pretzels.
In the end, I guess I would say that even with all these experiments, I can assure you that the recipe is quick to make and whether they’re pretty or not, they’ll still taste good. Remember, a soda bath is just boiling water with baking soda in it — don’t be intimidated! And even a misshapen gluten free soft pretzel made with this recipe and my gfJules Flour tastes awesome! Ever seen soft pretzel “bites” or “sticks”? They’re just as tasty!
And for those of you looking to make gluten-free pretzel buns, try adding more water (start with 4 tablespoons extra) and don’t try to braid them. Just roll the dough into balls and follow the directions as written from there. You may need to bake longer, depending on the size of your bun, so just know if a toothpick stuck into the middle comes out with dough, it’s not done yet!
Check out some of the young gluten free soft pretzel bakers who’ve made these treats over the years. They trusted my recipe and didn’t make any changes … wish I could have done the same!
If they can do it, so can you.
Grab some baking soda and some mustard and get busy! And one more thing: just like “regular” soft pretzels, these are best enjoyed the day they’re made. The large sea salt on top makes them look wrinkly on day two.
In a small bowl, mix warm water, sugar and yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. Measure and whisk together the gfJules Flour and salt set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg and honey. Stir in half of the proofed yeast mixture, then add half the flour mixture to the bowl. Beat on low speed, then add remaining flour mixture and yeast mixture, beating again to integrate the ingredients, then add one minute of mixing.
The dough should be tacky, not wet or difficult to pull apart. If it is very wet, add more gfJules Flour by the tablespoon; if it is difficult to separate the dough into 4 balls because the dough is tough or tight, add warm water by the tablespoon to the dough, mixing until integrated and the dough is looser.
You want it to be able to roll the dough out like soft playdough, but it should not be too wet that it’s difficult to roll.
Divide the dough into 4 equal sized balls. Gently roll small fistfuls of dough to approximately 1/2 inch diameter thick logs (use a very light dusting of gfJules™ All Purpose Flour to dust the rolling surface only if needed to keep the dough from sticking). If the dough is too coated in flour, it will be difficult to roll it out because there will be no friction, so dampen your mat or rolling surface.
Take both ends of each log and twist into the middle.
Press together to form a pretzel shape. Gently dab water under each of the ends of the twist to help them stick together, or they may release during the boil.
Lay each pretzel onto a parchment-paper lined baking sheet.
Use a pastry brush to dust off any excess flour, then liberally brush or spray the pretzel dough with water to keep it from drying out while rising. Cover with another sheet of oiled parchment and set aside to proof for up to 15 minutes. You do not want the pretzels to rise too much or too fast, so if your kitchen is already warm (as in summer), there is no need to move the pretzels to an oven or hotter location.
Prepare a soda bath by adding baking soda to 8-10 cups of water in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir until the soda is completely dissolved.
Preheat the oven to 375° (static) or 350° (convection).
Once the soda bath has achieved a rolling boil, gently submerge pretzels individually into the bath for 30 seconds, flipping over after about 15 seconds.
Remove with a slotted spoon or skimmer, drain and replace the pretzels onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush the boiled pretzels with oil or melted butter and top with coarse sea salt or other toppings. Bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. The pretzels will get darker using a convection setting. Do not over-bake.
Remove to cool slightly before serving plain or with your favorite mustard!
As with any soft pretzel, these are best served the same day they are made.