Soft Pretzels

by Lisa on April 3, 2011

Soft pretzels are seriously one of God’s gifts to carb lovers like me.  (Literally! Legend has it, these were invented by a monk as a treat for children who said their prayers.)  The key to getting the proper texture, with the smooth firm outside, is to submerge them into an alkaline bath, such as water and baking soda.  They always seemed easy enough…but we had tried making soft pretzels once upon a time, but I recall it becoming a sticky, gooey mess when in the water bath.  (As an aside, they still tasted good that time, but anyway.)  When I decided to give them another shot, my husband was a bit skeptical, but the promise of freshly baked pretzels won him over, and I gave it a try today.

I recalled that Alton Brown made a tasty looking pretzel on Food TV’s Good Eats, and figured that I would give his version a try.  Sure enough, they were simple and easy – if you have a stand mixer, you barely have to touch the dough – and came out amazing.  I personally don’t keep pretzel salt hanging out in my pantry, so I used a slightly finer Kosher salt, and it came out just fine.  It was a lovely treat to enjoy these with some nice cold beer and a spicy mustard this afternoon.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

From Alton Brown, via Food TV

  • 1.5 cups of Warm Water
  • 1 packet (or 2 and 1/4 tsp) Dry active yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 22oz Flour
  • 2oz Butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil
  • 10 Cups of Water
  • 2/3 cup Baking Soda
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • Kosher salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine warm water, dry active yeast, sugar and salt.  Let stand for about 5 minutes, or until mixture begins to appear foamy.  Add flour and butter to the bowl.  Using your dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until all ingredients are incorporated, then increase to medium speed and continue to mix until dough forms a ball, pulls away from the side of the bowl, and appears smooth.  Grease the bowl of your stand mixer lightly with vegetable oil, and place the dough back in the bowl.  Cover with saran wrap loosely, and place in a warm area of your kitchen for about an hour, or until the dough doubles.

After the dough has risen, bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  As the water is heating, prepare 2 cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper, and then coating lightly with vegetable oil.  On a lightly oiled surface, turn out the pretzel dough and divide into 8 equal portions.  Roll these portions into an approximately 2 foot long rope.  Shape into a pretzel by forming a U, crossing the arms of the U over each other once, and then folding them down and attaching them to the bottom of the U shape.  Gently lower the pretzel into the rapidly boiling water, one at a time, for 30 seconds each.  After boiling, place onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Beat together the egg yolk and the additional tablespoon of water, and brush this mixture over the pretzels.  Sprinkle with Kosher salt to taste.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the pretzels appear golden brown on top.  Enjoy!

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