Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Soft Pretzels

I took advantage of a rainy day and made something I've always wanted to make - soft pretzels. I'm a big Alton Brown fan, so I started by watching the pretzel episode of Good Eats, conveniently available on YouTube. It was really helpful to watch him go through the process, and his recipe seemed pretty simple.
Barley malt extract is definitely not required for soft pretzels, but it gives a certain flavor that makes them taste more like proper pretzels. (Barley malt extract is also used in bagels!)

The dough didn't take long to put together, and it rose quickly - it doubled in size in about an hour.

I recently got a kitchen scale recently and it really makes baking so much easier! I don't have to use as many dishes, either, which is always nice. The dough weighed about 36 oz., so I divided it into twelve 3 oz. balls.

Next, I rolled out each ball into a rope about 16" long. To form the pretzel, make a U-shape, then cross the ends over each other once or twice. Fold the ends over the base of the U, then pinch the overlapping parts together.

No pictures of this part (too quick!), but you bring some water and baking soda to a boil, dip the raw pretzels in for about 30 seconds each, and drain on a rack for a few minutes. Then brush on an egg wash, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake for about 14 minutes.

Chewy, salty, exactly what I was craving! The baking soda bath gave the pretzels a great toothy crust. Now I just need some mustard...

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Alton Brown


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I used 2 teaspoons barley malt extract + 1 teaspoon sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups (I used about 16 ounces of high-gluten bread flour and 6 ounces white whole wheat flour)
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Coarse salt


Combine the water, sugar (and barley malt extract, if using) and salt in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for about an hour 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  vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 16-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 and let dry on a rack for a couple of minutes. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with coarse 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.


  1. Oh my goodness, those look delicious! I think we definitely need to live closer!

  2. Your pretzels look like absolute heaven!!! I so wish I had one right now on this cold, snowy day in NYC. My husband and I also love Alton. Sometimes I call him the 'Alton' of the family because he also had kind of an OCD about cooking, just like the man himself :)

  3. I would love to share these pretzels, they are really best within the first day after baking. I think next time I'll try to freeze some of them, but I'm not sure at which step they should be frozen...

    Rachel, I think it's perfectly fine to be a bit OCD about cooking :)

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I found you via google since i didn't have a link. :) Homemade pretzels...yummm. Savvy Julie has been making them and they make me want to drool. I love cinnamon sugar pretzels.

  5. Mmm cinnamon sugar pretzels sound like a great idea!

  6. wow so cool!! those look AMAZING. I love warm pretzels with mustard!!


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