December is here! I wanted to make something that was only slightly sweet and with only small hints of the red and green colors of the upcoming holiday. Because that’s how I roll. I figured the next few weeks, we will see a bombardment of all things red and green. I tend to prefer the brick red of the dried cranberries and the chartreuse green of the pistachios.
I took a traditional German-style soft pretzel recipe and added cranberries and pistachios both within the dough and as toppings, plus added a little pistachio extract (which is amazingly strong stuff, btw, a little goes a long way…), plus honey with the brushed-on butter, and some pearl sugar to take the place of the pretzel salt. Et voilà!
I love, love, love, soft pretzels! So much so that I drove about 70 miles north one day last summer just to attend a pretzel making class, which was being offered by a flour company. It was to learn how to make traditional German-style soft pretzels.
Before this class, I thought Auntie Anne’s Pretzel was a good example of a soft pretzel. I mean, I still like Auntie Anne’s, especially their Pretzel Dogs. But these are waaaay better!! The diastatic malt powder helps convert the starches in the flour into sugars, which is what gives it the unique pretzel flavor without having to add sugar, which would make them too sweet.
The class was only a few hours from start to finish, but it really helped. I would’ve taken the next class immediately afterwards, which was on English muffins, but that class was already full. They do have lots of repeating classes on other things like bagels, bialys, and pizza, so I might be going back sometime soon.
As much as I love the traditional soft pretzel recipe, it was fun to create my own soft pretzel flavor. I’d buy these if Auntie Anne offered them in the mall! Are you listening Auntie Anne? If you make these, that would be the bee’s knees!!
The purpose of honey in the butter for brushing on top of the pretzels after being baked, was twofold–to place this recipe squarely in the sweet category, but also to help the toppings to stick to the top surface of each pretzel. I then substituted pearl sugar for the pretzel salt. I think it worked out pretty well!
If you want to make the traditional soft pretzel recipe, just omit the honey as well as the cranberries, pistachios, and pistachio extract, and use 2 teaspoons of salt instead of the 1/2 a teaspoon I used in the dough, plus top each with pretzel salt instead of the pearl sugar that I used. Use a European-style unsalted butter for best results, if possible.
Anyways, I hope you enjoy! Happy Holidays and hope to see you in the New Year!
pistachio cranberry pretzels (adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe)
5 and 1/4 cups bread flour (595 grams)
1/4 cup each of coarsely chopped pistachios and dried cranberries, plus more for topping, if desired
1 and 1/2 cups lukewarm water (354 grams)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast (5 grams)
1 pinch sugar (if using active dry yeast)
1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams)
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, European-style butter preferred, soft (28 grams)
1/4 teaspoon pistachio extract (optional)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) diastatic malt powder
pearl sugar, for sprinkling, optional
1/2 cup baking soda for water bath
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted, plus 3 Tablespoons honey, for brushing after baking
If using active dry yeast, add the water and pinch of sugar into a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast into the water and stir gently, then leave to bubble and bloom for about 10 minutes.
If using instant yeast, start here:
Combine all the ingredients except the baking soda into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Mix using the dough hook attachment, on slow speed, to about 3 minutes, then turn up to medium speed and mix for about 5-6 minutes.
Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rest for about 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 pieces, each weighing about 80 grams. Roll each into a cylinder about 24 inches long, tapering off at the ends and the center area being the thickest part of the pretzel. Pick up the ends and twist twice, then bring each down to each side, pressing down.
Place each pretzel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cover and let rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Afterwards, chill, still covered, for 30 minutes.
While chilling, prepare the baking soda water bath by adding 4 quarts of water with the baking soda to a large wide pan. Bring to a simmer and keep temperature from being a hard boil.
Dunk each pretzel, two at a time, into the simmering water, for 10 seconds on each side.
Using a perforated spoon or draining ladle, transfer each pretzel to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a sharp blade or knife, cut a horizontal line on the thickest part of the pretzel, between the arms. Sprinkle with pearl sugar, if desired.
Bake on center rack for 14-18 minutes in a 400 degree F. oven.
After baking, brush the top of each pretzel with the honey/butter combo and sprinkle with more of the chopped pistachios and dried cranberries, if desired.