Pretzel Mania

IMG_1067(KERI) We’ve all eaten one (or a dozen). Those divine, doughy wonders that are made of little more than flour, sugar, yeast, and baking soda. I’ve eaten them in airports and shopping malls, and I know you have too, so let’s all just say together that giant, soft pretzels are good. Awesome. Crave-worthy. No one is bad from having come clean on this fact.


About two years ago, I became obsessed with making these beauties myself (sans the pool of grease you find on those in airports and malls) and set out to find the perfect recipe. It seemed the perfect recipe for the pretzel would focus more on science than art, and who better to turn to for this adventure than Alton Brown. The guy knows cooking from the inside-most-molecule. Of course he would know pretzels and of course his giant soft honeys are spot-on yummy and fail-proof. Really, they are. He leads, you follow…carefully and you’ll not be disappointed.

I make no changes and simply say these two things:
1. You’ll want to double the recipe if you’re taking them to a party (and you’ll want to do that, trust me). In this case, I made them in two separate go-arounds vs. doubling the ingredients. Why? I dunno – it seemed best not to mess with science and I was afraid my mixer couldn’t knead 9 cups of flour at at time.
2. I added more baking soda to the pretzel-dunking water whilst boiling them – fearful all that boiling would diminish the amount of soda in the water. Seriously, Keri. I should consult science before doing so. Some of them came out a little bitter and that’s why.

I’ve toted these homemade dough twists to a few parties and did so last night for our neighbor’s annual night-before-New-Year’s-eve bash. The pretzels vanished in 30 minutes. They always do. And it makes me smile to watch people devour them and kids dig out the inside doughy-dough parts only to leave the outside crusty pieces for me to steal. We serve with a variety of mustards (last night it was one sweet and one spicy chipotle) and that, my friends, is fat-cat goodness.


Homemade Soft Pretzels by Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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