I was inspired to make these large soft pretzels when I watched Alton Brown share his recipe on the Food Network recently. I added a very decadent, stove-top chocolate custard to use as a spread for the pretzels that's unbelievably delicious... it was inspired by Home Maker By Choice's recipe for chocolate filling. Naturally, the custard would make a fantastic pot de creme, topped with or without homemade whipped cream. By the way, for a great whipped cream recipe, see my Black Forest Cherry Trifle...adjust the amount of the ingredients for the whipped cream to the quantity of custard you prepare.
As I've explained in my tip below and as encouraged by Alton Brown, you'll definitely not want to top these pretzels with any salt other than pretzel salt...also, I recommend using it sparingly! If you can't access or don't have time to order the pretzel salt, I strongly advise not topping the pretzels at all with salt.
Pretzels Will Never Be The Same Again...
Makes 8 large pretzels and about 2 cups of chocolate custard spread
The Chocolate Custard Spread
- 1/2 c. sugar
- 3 1/2 TB cornstarch
- 5 large egg yolks (You can get creative w/those egg whites....right?)
- 1 1/2 c. half and half (milk and cream)
- 6 oz. premium semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 TB salted butter
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 c. warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water (I just use hot tap water.)
- 1 TB sugar
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 pkg. active dry yeast
- 1/4 c.--or 1/2 stick (before melted) salted butter
- 4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- vegetable oil for the bowl, pan and work surface (I use canola oil.)
- 8 c. water
- 2/3 c. baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten w/1 TB water
- Pretzel salt*
If you can't find or don't have time to order online the pretzel salt, I would recommend not topping these pretzels at all with salt...kosher salt or any other salt taste too salty on these pretzels and can cause the tops to become soggy. (Pretzel salt does not melt as quickly as other salts.)
Chocolate Makes Everything Better!
The Chocolate Custard Spread
- Hand whisk the sugar and cornstarch in a heavy-duty electric mixer bowl. Using the mixer beater attachment, beat the egg yolks into the sugar mixture.
- Bring the half and half to a simmer over medium-low to medium heat in a medium saucepan, hand whisking occasionally to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat.
- Using the wire whisk attachment to your mixer, whisk on low speed, in a slow stream, the hot half and half into the egg yolk mixture.
- Return the mixture to the saucepan and hand whisk over medium-low heat until hot. Add the chocolate and butter and continue hand whisking constantly until smooth and thickened, about 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the custard to a 1 1/2 qt. (ideally glass) bowl and whisk in the vanilla. Cool, stirring occasionally. Gently press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard. Cover the entire bowl with additional plastic wrap and chill until the custard is cold. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Combine the 1 1/2 c. warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top of the mixture. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, or until the mixture begins to foam.
- Melt the butter and add, along with the flour, to the yeast mixture. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl...about 4 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl. Clean the bowl and then oil it well with the vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- This is my tried and true method of creating a warm place for dough to rise: Put the bowl of covered dough in a turned-off oven. On the rack below, place a baking pan beneath the bowl; and, using a tea kettle, fill the pan about halfway up with boiling water...add more boiling water as needed. (It should not be necessary to add more boiling water to the pan for this recipe).
- Let the dough rest for about 55 minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450º.
- Line a jelly roll pan or baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly brush the paper with the vegetable oil. Set the pan aside.
- Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a slightly oiled work surface. Divide it into 8 equal pieces.
- Roll out each piece of dough into an approximate 17 1/2" long rope. Make a U shape with the rope. For a heart-shaped pretzel: Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U. Place onto the parchment-lined jelly roll pan or baking sheet.
- Bring the 8 c. of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a 4 qt. saucepot.
- One by one, place the pretzels onto a wide flat spatula and gently lower into the boiling water.
- Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds. With the wide flat spatula, remove from the boiling water and return to the jelly roll pan or baking sheet.
- Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk/water mixture and lightly sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
- Transfer the pretzels to a wire rack and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- To freshen leftover pretzels, place in a preheated 350º standard oven or toaster oven and bake for only 5 minutes--watch closely.
Serve the custard as a spread in individual ramekins. You'll know you've done your job as you enjoy watching each person slather the decadent chocolate custard onto their big, fat soft pretzels, close their eyes and...hmmm!