Healthy How-To: Soft Pretzels

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Raise your hand if you've got a case of cabin fever! As we slowly add more daylight and inch toward springtime, I've been craving one of my favorite ballpark snacks -- soft pretzels. Sure, I could swing by the mall for a jumbo pretzel saturated with butter and salt. But it's healthier and just plain more fun to make them at home, especially on cold days when you're cooped up inside.

(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a printable PDF version of the recipe)

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Pretzels are super simple and are made from just a handful of ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and baking soda. They aren't inherently unhealthy, it's just the giant portions and toppings that get us into trouble. To make them a bit healthier, I make smaller pretzels and substitute white whole wheat flour for about half of the regular flour.

Give them a try, nothing beats a soft pretzel warm from the oven!

Nutrition Facts Face-Off!

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Soft-Baked Wheat Pretzels (Printable PDF Version)

Makes 8 pretzels


Ingredients

Dough:

  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 cup very warm water (about 120°F)

Baking Soda Wash:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda

For Topping:

  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • Coarse salt (optional)
  • Cinnamon sugar topping (optional)*
  • Parmesan herb topping (optional)**

Directions

  1. Dissolve yeast, sugar, and salt in warm water. Whisk together flours in a large mixing bowl, then stir in yeast mixture using a wooden spoon.
  2. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes by hand or machine. Form into a ball and sprinkle with all-purpose flour. Place the dough in a gallon-size plastic bag and let rise for about 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450°F and lightly grease a baking sheet. To prepare baking soda wash, whisk together 2 tablespoons baking soda and 1 cup water in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave for about 1 minute or until boiling. (The baking soda may not dissolve completely). Set aside to cool.
  4. When dough has risen, transfer to a clean surface and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece out into a rope and shape into a pretzel. Let rest for about 5 minutes.
  5. Pour baking soda and water mixture to a shallow pan. Place pretzels in baking soda wash and let soak for 2 minutes.
  6. Transfer pretzels to the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt if desired. Let rest for 10 minutes, then bake for 9-10 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.
  7. After removing pretzels from the oven, brush lightly with melted butter. To make cinnamon sugar pretzels, sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the pretzels after brushing with butter.

*Cinnamon Sugar Topping: Mix together 2 tablespoons granulated sugar with 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon.

**Parmesan Herb Topping: Mix together 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary, 1/8 teaspoon dried basil, and 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme.

Nutrition Facts (1 pretzel with a sprinkle of coarse salt): Calories 150, Total Fat 2g (Saturated 1g), Cholesterol 4mg, Sodium 440mg, Total Carbohydrate 29g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 4g, Vitamin A 1% DV, Vitamin C 0% DV, Calcium 0% DV, Iron 10% DV

Nutrition Facts (1 cinnamon sugar pretzel): Calories 165, Total Fat 2g (Saturated 1g), Cholesterol 4mg, Sodium 440mg, Total Carbohydrate 32g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 4g, Vitamin A 1% DV, Vitamin C 0% DV, Calcium 0% DV, Iron 10% DV

Nutrition Facts (1 parmesan herb pretzel): Calories 160, Total Fat 3g (Saturated 1g), Cholesterol 4mg, Sodium 470mg, Total Carbohydrate 29g, Dietary Fiber 3g, Protein 5g, Vitamin A 1% DV, Vitamin C 0% DV, Calcium 3% DV, Iron 10% DV

 

Today's post was written by Leia Kedem. Leia Kedem, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and Nutrition & Wellness Educator covering Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion Counties. She appears weekly on WCIA-3/WCIX-49 and is a biweekly contributor to the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. She also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts where she regularly posts health tips and answers nutrition questions for free.