As a novice baker of bread products, I’ve come to accept the fact that I may have to try recipes multiple times before I can get them to work properly. Sweet potato biscuits took three tries. So did almost-no-knead bread. I tend to lack this degree of patience and perseverance in other areas of my life, but apparently I’ll do just about anything to get my carbs.

Wouldn't you do anything for these?

So far I’ve only tried this pretzel recipe twice, and both times they’ve been almost perfect—and suffering from the same fatal flaw. You see, the recipe calls for brushing moist pretzels (they’ve just been poached in baking soda) with an egg wash and then baking them.

Taking a nice baking soda bath.

When baked, this egg wash turns into glue.

The first time, when Karina and I made pretzels for the Fourth of July, they stuck fast to the parchment paper we’d put them on. We ate them anyway, picking off (and, um, eating) the parchment. And the second time, when I made them for the Superbowl, I wised up and greased a pan instead of using parchment. But the pretzels just stuck resolutely to the pan. As you might guess, I pried them loose and ate them anyway.

I’m not entirely sure how to avoid this predicament, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out by the third try.

Soft pretzels
From Smitten Kitchen

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

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