Apple Cider Soft Pretzels
Apple cider soft pretzels are probably my most favorite fall creation ever! ‘Tis the season for all the warm spicy smells, pumpkin picking, and finally getting to squeeze into our favorite sweaters again! As the weather quickly cools down in October, I look more and more forward to turning on the oven and getting into my next baking project!
These pretzels are so so perfect for fall! The dough is infused with apple cider, and then the pretzels are brushed with butter and coated generously in a spicy cinnamon sugar! Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly get better than the famous apple cider donuts!
What You’ll Need
- Baking Scale: Using a food scale for baking not only ensures that you will get the recipe exactly accurate, but it saves us a lot of dirty dishes and measuring cups!
- Stand Mixer (optional): I love using my Kitchen Aid Stand mixer for kneading doughs because it does the hard work for me! But in this case, it isn’t exactly necessary. But if you do have one, definitely use it to save yourself some energy!
- Large glass bowl: this holding the lye solution that we dip the pretzels into
- Large slotted spatula: makes it easier to get the pretzels out of the lye bath.
- Food safe gloves: ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY when dealing with lye.
- Large baking sheet: I like using extra large baking sheets so all 6 pretzels can bake at the same time.
- Parchment paper: makes everything easier and avoids sticky messes.
- Apple cider
- All purpose or bread flour
- Instant yeast
- Brown sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Food grade lye granules
- Ground cinnamon
- Ground apple pie spice (optional)
Why do apple cider soft pretzels call for LYE?
For these apple cider soft pretzels, I decided the best option would be to use lye. A lot of recipes for homemade pretzels will include a baking soda bath as a substitute for a lye bath. But pretzels are actually traditionally made with a lye bath. The purpose of both methods is to add an alkaline or basic coating to the pretzel dough before going into the oven, to result in a dark brown golden color, while also adding that signature chewy pretzel texture and flavor.
Although lye has to be handled extremely cautiously, I still prefer this method over the baking soda method. Here’s why:
- Authentic taste: hands down, when a lye bath is used, the pretzel just tastes more like a pretzel.
- Less steps: when using lye, you end up with less steps. You just dip for a few seconds, and you’re done. When using baking soda bath, you have to boil a lot of water, soak pretzels for longer, and finish with an egg wash.
- Darker brown finish: With the lye solution, you end up with much deeper and darker pretzels, which look a lot more legitimate.
- End result just looks better: When using lye, the end baked results look a lot better. The pretzel skin is even and smooth. When you use baking soda, the skin usually looks a bit imperfect and dimpled in certain areas.
For these reasons, I choose to go with a lye bath. But if you’re still not convinced, these pretzels still work perfectly fine with a baking soda bath.
Importance of reducing apple cider
These pretzels taste a lot like the beloved cinnamon sugar pretzels, but with a kick of our favorite apple cider that is so reminiscent of our pumpkin picking adventures! So in order to add as much apple cider flavor to the pretzels as possible, we must reduce the apple cider first.
This means that we’re slowly cooking down the apple cider, and we end up with a much more concentrated, smaller amount of apple cider that’s full of flavor!
How to make apple cider soft pretzels
- Reduce the apple cider and set aside
- Make pretzel dough: combine all the ingredients and knead in a stand mixer for about 15 minutes until dough is very smooth and elastic, and passes the “window pane” test. This means it’s developed enough gluten. Let the dough rise until doubled in size.
- Prepare the lye solution: **VERY CAREFULLY** prepare the lye solution in a large glass bowl, and set aside.
- Assemble the pretzels: divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and shape the pretzels, placing each one onto a small piece of parchment paper
- Dip into lye: place pretzels one at a time into lye bath (WEARING GLOVES) for several seconds, fully submerging the pretzel into bath. Lift pretzel out of the solution and let excess drip off. Place onto parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake: Bake pretzels for about 8-10 minutes, until deeply golden brown.
- Brush each pretzel with butter and then coat with cinnamon sugar
A quintessential fall flavor, but in soft pretzel form! These apple cider soft pretzels are super soft and chewy!
- 1 1/2 c (248ml) apple cider (reduced to 1/2 cup following instructions below)
- 3 c (384g) all purpose or bread flour
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- pinch of salt
- 3/4 c (184ml) milk
- 2 tb light brown sugar
- 2 tb butter, melted
- 1000g (about 4 c) cold water
- 30g food grade lye granules
- 1/4 c (56g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 c (200g) granulated sugar
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp apple pie spice (optional, or replace with 1/2 tsp nutmeg)
Reduce apple cider
- Place apple cider into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, then lower heat to bring the apple cider to a simmer. Stirring occasionally, simmer apple cider for about 20-25 minutes to reduce the amount to a 1/2 cup. Set aside to cool until just warm.
make pretzel dough
- in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together flour, yeast, and salt.
- add reduced apple cider, milk, brown sugar, and melted butter to the flour, and with a dough hook on the stand mixer, start on low speed to bring the dough together. let machine knead dough for a few minutes. if it's too dry, add a tablespoon of milk. knead dough for about 10-15 minutes, or until it's very smooth and elastic, passing the "window pane" test.
- lightly grease a large bowl and place dough into it. cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour or until doubled in size. you can also make this dough ahead of time and let it rise overnight in the fridge.
prepare lye solution
- fill a large glass bowl with cold water.
- wearing food safe gloves and being super careful, gradually add lye granules into the water while whisking slowly to combine well. *DANGER: lye is poisonous and the use of this lye solution should be very carefully managed. keep children and pets away while dealing with lye solution. this is a diluted solution but can still cause irritation to the skin. read label for further instructions in case of contact.
- set solution aside and discard gloves if they touched the lye or the solution.
assemble the pretzels
- preheat oven to 450 degrees F. prepare a large baking pan with parchment paper cut into 8 large squares big enough for the large pretzels.
- punch down the dough in the bowl and place on a clean work surface.
- divide into 8 equal pieces.
- taking one piece of dough, start rolling it out into a rope shape without flouring the surface. the slight tackiness will help you roll.
- roll rope out to a very long and skinny rope, about the width of a finger.
- to make pretzel shape, bring the ends together by criss-crossing them and twisting 2-3 times, then lay ends down onto the middle of the rope. press lightly to seal (see photos above for reference). place assembled pretzels on the individual parchment paper squares. I like working in batches of 4-6 pretzels because that's all that can fit onto my baking sheet at once for baking. Finish shaping the rest of the pretzels as the first batch is about to come out of the oven.
prepare for baking
- put on clean food safe gloves and arrange your lye solution and pan of pretzels next to each other on a big cleared work surface.
- prepare a large baking sheet or two with parchment paper.
- lift a pretzel up by the parchment paper and slowly lower it into the lye solution, then gently push it down to submerge it fully into the solution for a few seconds, then, pick up the pretzel and let the excess lye solution drop off before carefully placing it onto the parchment lined baking sheet. repeat this process for each pretzel. carefully remove and discard gloves when done.
- bake pretzels for about 8-10 minutes, until they're a very deep golden brown.
- remove from oven and let cool slightly while you prepare the next steps.
Prepare cinnamon sugar
- in a microwave safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. set aside.
- in a medium shallow bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon, and apple spice.
- when pretzels are still warm, brush with butter all around the top and bottom of pretzel, and dunk it into the cinnamon sugar to coat it well. repeat until all pretzels are coated.