Bar pretzels are probably among some of the world’s most perfect food.
By bar pretzels, I mean those soft pretzels that a lot of bars will offer. Those places where you’re supposed to be paying attention to drinks. I don’t normally order food at bars (and I really haven’t been to enough to know if good soft pretzels are more of a rule or exception) but I’ve experienced my fair share of exceptional bar pretzels: soft, steamy, yeasty insides with bronzed, chewy outsides, impossibly buttery and crunchy with salt.
These are really different from those pretzels (yes, different from that perfect food. But still.). For one, they’re stuffed with my absolute favorite spinach and artichoke dip (so vegan. So healthy.) For another, they’re made out of chickpea flour and almond flour which means they’re nutty and grainy, not soft and smooth. Protein and nutrient-packed instead of a nutritional wasteland!
I got the idea for stuffed pretzels from Tieghan and decided to try the gluten-free pretzel from Wheat Belly as the pretzel base. I’m not hugely enthusiastic about most Wheat Belly recipes since a lot of them use an incredible amount of almond flour—the use of which in baking is up for debate, not to mention how incredibly caloric the stuff is—but I was really curious to see if these would turn out.
Well, the dough seemed incredibly too soft for pretzels even with liquid-sucking chickpea flour and flaxseed, so I added some extra chickpea flour, which seemed to do the trick. The dough was still pretty wet and sticky during the stuffing step, but I found that wetting my hands before dealing with the dough helped prevent some sticking.
Because there’s no gluten, the dough is nowhere near as stretchy as conventional pretzel dough, which means there was no way to stuff them AND create pretzel shapes the way Tieghan did. So I tried them two ways: as pretzel rolls—stuffed into a ball and dunked into a baking soda bath before baking—and simply rolled up into a baked log, strudel-style. I liked the pretzel rolls slightly better since there was an actual, distinct pretzel-like bite, but the log wasn’t far behind in terms of taste and required way less hands-on time.
So did they turn out or what?
Yes! I have no doubt that stuffed yeasty white flour pretzels would be amazing, but I kind of really liked the combo of these nutty, golden-doughed pretzels paired with that addictively fresh-tasting dip. It’s all around wholesome, delicious and satisfying.
Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Pretzels (gluten-free)
- 1/2 batch vegan spinach and artichoke dip
- ¾ cup water 100-110F—I microwaved tap water for 20 seconds to get approximately the right temperature
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 slightly heaped teaspoon rapid-rise yeast half a packet
- 1 ¼ cups chickpea flour
- 1 scant cup almond meal or flour
- ½ cup ground golden flaxseed
- 1 scant teaspoon table salt
- 2 tablespoons melted butter try subbing olive oil to make vegan
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- Whisk together the warm water and sugar until dissolved, then whisk in the yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, until foamy.
- Whisk together the flours, flaxseed and salt. Stir in the melted butter, then the yeast mixture. Set aside in a warm place (I put my dough in the microwave thanks to this trick) and let rise for an hour.
- The dough will not rise drastically, but it should look a little puffed after an hour. Sprinkle a clean surface with additional chickpea flour.
- For pretzel buns: Divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 6-8 equal pieces of dough. To prevent the dough from cementing to your hand, wet your palm with some water before flattening a piece of dough in your palm to form a rough circle. Add a tablespoon of dip to the center of the dough and pinch the dough closed. Repeat until all balls have been stuffed.
- Bring a pot of about 6-8 cups of water to a rolling boil and add 3 tablespoons baking soda. Drop the dough balls into the water and let cook for about 60 seconds. The balls are very dense and will not float to the top; I fished mine out of the bottom of the pot with a slotted spoon.
- Place balls on a baking sheet and brush with milk or a bit of egg, then finish with a generous sprinkling of salt. Bake for 15 minutes at 425F degrees, then for another 10 minutes at 350, or until browned and firm to the touch.
- For baked logs: Divide dough into two parts. Pat each half of dough into rough rectangles, about 4”x10” and ½-inch tall. Spoon a few tablespoons of dip down the center of each rectangle.
- Fold the edges of the rectangle around the dip, sealing all edges. The dough will be sticky and may tear in parts, but it’s okay if a few peeks of spinach poke out. Repeat with the other half of dough.
- Transfer to a baking sheet, brush with milk or a bit of egg and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and firm.