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tribute to the queen of all daring bakers, lis

Recipe: hot buttered pretzels (db)

I started blogging in 2004 – it was an outlet for my thoughts after my sister had died. There was no theme, no goal, just me unloading a lot of tangled emotions, working through my feelings. Only a handful of friends read it at the time and it was virtually unknown to the world. In 2007, I noticed a group of food bloggers – The Daring Bakers – who baked a challenge each month and posted their results on their blogs on an agreed upon day. I wanted to join, but I needed a blog. I mean, I HAD a blog, but I needed a public blog. And that was what prompted me to split off use real butter and start a food blog.


old school: we knead to bake



When I joined The Daring Bakers (now The Daring Kitchen) in late 2007, we were 80 strong. When I left in 2010, there were thousands of Daring Bakers and Daring Cooks across the globe. So much had changed during my stint, but there were always two constants: Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice – our founders. I learned from Kelly earlier this week that Lis had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Old timer DBs reconnected at hearing the news and it was decided (thanks to Kelly) that Friday, November 15th would be our day of tribute to this witty, energetic, supportive, and wonderful woman. Lis was every Daring Baker’s biggest cheerleader and we cannot believe she is gone.

It was only fitting that I post a Daring Bakers recipe. The first one – the one that started it all – was hot buttered pretzels. Lis and Ivonne made them back in 2006 and it has been on my list of “must bake” recipes for years. So this one is for you, Lis – and for all of my beloved Daring Bakers.


start with: water, butter, yeast, sugar, kosher salt, flour, sugar and salt

mix warm water, sugar, salt, and yeast

add flour



You can find old Daring Baker challenges (the recipes) in The Daring Kitchen archives, but there was a slight discrepancy between that one and the recipe on Ivonne’s site so I went with Ivonne’s version. I remember how I used to feel either elation or dread when I would get the next Daring Baker challenge. But here’s the thing – I learned so much and gained confidence and skill in the realm of baking with each monthly challenge. It helped me grow as a food blogger, a baker, and a person.

knead the dough

dust with flour

place in a ziploc bag to rise for 30 minutes (or a bowl – i’d go with the bowl next time)



Bread is a good and therapeutic thing to make when you want to lose yourself in thought. I used to get nervous when any recipe dealt with yeast, but now because of The Daring Bakers it is no longer daunting, but fun. These pretzels make for a lovely project that doesn’t require much in the way of exotic ingredients or loads of time.

dissolve the sugar in a half cup of warm water

slice the dough into eighths

roll each piece of dough on a lightly greased work surface to 18-24 inches in length



The coolest part was shaping the pretzels, which I’ve never done before. Luckily, I had a little practice with tying the dough for herbed garlic knots earlier. For the pretzels, you want to get a length of at least 18 inches, but probably closer to 24 inches. Any longer and your pretzels will be scrawny. Too short a rope will result in no pretzel holes because the dough will rise some more and expand. Form a circle with the ends of the rope meeting at the top. Pick them up and twist them around once (or twice if you like) then fold the ends down on the bottom of the ring. The pictures explain the technique much better than my words.

make a circle

twist the ends around each other

leave a few inches of tail beyond the twist

fold the ends down and set them on the pretzel ring



Don’t get upset if your pretzel doesn’t stick together or hold its shape when you go to dip it in the sugar water. Gravity wins every time. No worries though, because once you’ve dipped the pretzel (both sides) into the sugar water, just set it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and shape it nice and pretzel-y. Sprinkle salt over the dough and let it rise for 15 minutes before chucking it in the oven.

dip both sides into the sugar water to promote nice browning

sprinkle salt

let them rise (you’ll see what i mean about puffing)



The pretzels bake for a short 10 minutes. When they come out of the oven, have your melted butter at the ready and baste the hot pretzels. They’ll soak up all of that butter goodness. I had enough butter to give each pretzel a double brushing.

baked to a golden brown

a generous brush of butter

crisp outside, soft fluffy inside, and warm buttery goodness all over



It had been a long day, so when I sat down to try a pretzel, that first bite was particularly satisfying. I toasted Lis and The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks and all of the people whose lives she touched. I’m a better baker, blogger, and person for having known her. Lis, you are deeply loved and missed. xo

for lis

comfort food when we are most in need of comforting



Hot Buttered Pretzels
[print recipe]
adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion

the dough:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 tsps (1 pkg) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (~105°-115°F)

the topping:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
kosher salt for sprinkling
3 tbsps unsalted butter, melted

Make the dough: Combine the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, and warm water in a large bowl with your hands or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Work the ingredients together until the dough forms a ball. It should be a somewhat wet dough – that’s okay. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 or more minutes by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand and then grabbing the top under your fingers and bringing it back on itself. Continue with the kneading until the dough is smooth. Or you can knead the dough in your mixer with the dough hook. When the dough is smooth, sprinkle flour on it and place it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes in a warm location. It should double in size. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Make the topping: Stir the sugar into the half cup of warm water until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the sugar water into a shallow dish.

Make the pretzels: Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that is about 24 inches in length, but not longer. Form a circle with the rope and pick up the two ends. Twist the ends around one another allowing for about 4 inches of tail on each end. Then fold the ends down to attach to the bottom of the pretzel ring. Dip each pretzel in the sugar water and set on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Sprinkle kosher salt over the pretzels and let them rest for 15 minutes. Place the pretzels in the oven for 10-12 minutes, rotating the trays at the halfway bake time. Check on the pretzels to make sure they don’t burn. Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with melted butter. Keep brushing until you’ve used up all of the butter. Serve warm with mustard. Makes 8 large pretzels.


more goodness from the use real butter archives

tender potato bread (db) tuiles, savory (db) danish braid (db) french yule log (db)

22 nibbles at “tribute to the queen of all daring bakers, lis”

  1. Cindi says:

    What a beautiful tribute. My Mister would love these!
    It’s interesting to know how your blog started and evolved. I’m so sorry about your friend. Always so sad when someone young dies ~ and suddenly. But then you know that… xoxo

  2. Caitlin says:

    I was shocked to hear about Lis’ passing earlier this week – she really was a mainstay of DB, and such a wonderful person and part of the community. I remember seeing all of the DB challenges popping up and finally taking the plunge to join – it was, of course, post-80 member and well into the hundreds when I did that! It’s that sort of community that I miss the most when I think about why I quit food blogging, so it’s good to see folks who have been in it for the long haul still appreciating the beginnings :)

  3. joanne says:

    So sorry for your loss.

  4. Zoë François says:

    Jennifer, such a beautiful tribute!

  5. coco cooks says:

    Your posts always were and.continue to be an inspiration. I need to do this one. Beautiful tribute.

  6. Kalyn says:

    A lovely tribute, and what a gorgeous and beautifully photographed post. I’m thinking a lot today about those early days of blogging and how many people influenced me, even though I never met most of them in real life. xoxo

  7. Chris says:

    Lovely, Jennifer! Beautiful tribute –

  8. Holly says:

    Jen. I love you. Seriously. Your support for my little family means so much to us and I know I’ve told you that on the Facebook and that I still stalk you here, but today I want to get back to basics and tell you here in your home how much you mean to us. Have Jeremy give you a big hug from us (then give him one too!). Someday we need to meet in person so I can squeeze you both myself and I’m sure Kayla is going to want big hugs too.

  9. Chef V says:

    Wonderful Jen, this post just brought back so many memories of Culinary School. Thanks ((hugs))

  10. debbie says:

    Very nice tribute and some delicious looking pretzels!

  11. kellypea says:

    That was perfectly wonderful, Jen. I was grinning as I read thinking of just how much Lis would want of those gorgeous pretzels. Definitely comfort food — your words as well as the pretzels. Makes my heart feel good. Thanks for that. xo

  12. Caramel Cake Recipe with Caramelized Butter Frosting - Andrea Meyers — Andrea Meyers says:

    […] Use Real Butter […]

  13. Andrea Meyers says:

    I read this while in the waiting room at the doc’s this morning, and the nurse was so kind and asked why I had tears streaming down my face when they called me back. Damn, life is too short. So glad I got to know you because of the DBs.

  14. Lien says:

    Dipping in baking soda water gives it that nice pretzel taste and browning we all love :) or boil in baking soda water for about 30 seconds for a more authentic approach.

  15. Sally - My Custard Pie says:

    I really relate to this as I became a more confident baker through joining a different baking group at the start of my food blog journey. I’ve connected with so many fantastic, inspiring people through blogging since then too. So sad to hear of this news.

  16. Deeba Rajpal (@vindee) says:

    Oh the lives she touched. I am a better {read far better than I ever dreamt} baker because of the Dbs! What a touching tribute. I love these pretzels and and step by step pics!

  17. Jill Hyde says:

    I love how you always speak from the heart. A lovely tribute.

  18. hilary says:

    These were lovely, mine were not quite so neat as yours! I let them prove too long so they were very puffy but delicious. I am English living in Australia and have a query however, what do you do with the mustard, spread it on, cut them in half and spread them??? The only pretzels I have come across before have been dry and biscuitty. Which kind did George Junior choke on???

  19. Joanne T Ferguson says:

    G’day! I don’t think will ever be able to eat a pretzel without thinking of Lis, true!
    What a lovely tribute! Great photo!
    It is bittersweet as am enjoying reading all the tributes, shared one, but feel sad and glad at the same time too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  20. Cheap Recipe Blog » 50 Cheap Appetizer Recipes | Less Than $1 Per Serving says:

    […] Hot buttered pretzels (15 cents each) […]

  21. jenyu says:

    Cindi – xoxo

    Caitlin – it’s how we met!! <3

    joanne - thank you.

    Zoë - *hugs*

    coco cooks - you're such a love. Thanks, hon. xo

    Kalyn - well, you're one of the early influences for me! Love you, Kalyn!

    Chris - thank you xo

    Holly - oh girl, we will definitely meet (we're neighbors - how can we not?!). Love you and your sweet fam. xo

    Chef V - xo

    debbie - thank you.

    Kelly - thank YOU for coordinating this massive tribute from the DB alumni. Really made me realize how many of you are a part of my life today because of the Daring Bakers (and of course, because of Lis). xo

    Andrea - SO glad we are friends and yes, we have the DBs and those last minute challenges to thank for it. Love you, Andrea xo

    Lien - ahhh, I thought there was a mistake because it said to make sure it all dissolved (and very little of it actually dissolved). Good to know! Thanks!

    Sally - agreed. It's good to stop and remember where we got our sea legs :)

    Deeba - I know! Me too!! Hugs to you, sweetheart.

    Jill - xxoo

    hilary - you can dip the pretzel in mustard and eat it that way. I never really liked doing this until I started to eat the fresh hot pretzels :)

    Joanne - xo

  22. Ann says:

    I will try this recipe just because of the lovely tribute. Lis, this one’s for you!

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