I probably have a love affair with pretzels from Auntie Anne’s. Every time I pass by a store and get a whiff of their pretzels, I want to turn around and march right in line to get my favourite Sour Cream and Onion-flavoured ones. When I’m in the mall, even when I’m a floor above their store, just the smell of freshly-baked pretzels makes my mouth water. There’s just something about biting into the crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside pretzels that just gives me such great satisfaction.
Plus, I’ve always adored their shapes that I would watch the Auntie Anne’s bakers roll and twist the pretzels into shape with such deft, over and over. I was pretty certain making pretzels would be as fun as eating them. And I was right.
I had been planning to bake some homemade pretzels for a while now. When I found this recipe, the word “yeast” made me a little nervous despite the great raves and reviews it got. You see, my first encounter with yeast wasn’t a very good one. I made Coffee Buns and they looked perfect at first, but after going into the oven and baking a couple of minutes the buns turned into flat pancake-like breads.
As delicious as it tasted, I was a little disheartened by the failure. But I just couldn’t let it stop me from making pretzels. I wanted to roll and twist those babies into shape. I had no idea they were to be boiled in water with baking soda to make them firmer, and to make the ends of the pretzels stick. It was such an interesting process, and one that I look forward to repeating again. I can’t wait to try other variations of recipes for Soft Pretzels!
I have made these pretzels twice already, both times I called my younger brothers to help out. They had a lot of fun rolling the dough and making the pretzel shapes, and although some of them ended up looking a little deformed (we resolved to call them “butterfly pretzels” because they looked like they were butterfly wings instead of the rounder shape of the pretzel), we had such a blast making the pretzels together! This would definitely be a good recipe to do with a group of people, or with kids. It was fun to watch my brothers wait [im]patiently in front of the oven until the pretzels turned golden brown, ready for devouring.
I must say that this recipe is actually pretty good. Although I’m still looking for that nicer crunch on the outer layer of the pretzel, the soft interior, texture and taste is just wonderful. Maybe I could try baking the pretzels a little longer to make it a darker brown. The first time I made these, I followed the instructions to a T and found that dividing the pretzels into just 8 made very large and very fat pretzels, almost too large. So I decided to divide the dough into 16 more bite-sized pieces, and they turned out really great!
Although I do think it is best to eat these pretzels the day they are made. I find that they can become quite hard and tough once they are refrigerated or left alone in room temperature for a few hours. Popping them into a toaster oven helps a little bit, but still, nothing quite like freshly baked goodies!
Alton Brown's Soft Pretzels
Makes 8 large or 16 medium-sized pretzels
- 1 1/2 cups warm water, 110º to 115º F
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
- 620 grams all-purpose flour, about 4 1/2 cups
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil, for greasing pan or parchment paper
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- pretzel salt, optional
Make the dough
- 1. Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast.
- 2. Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.
- 3. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
After the dough has risen
- 4. Preheat the oven to 450°F (about 235°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with vegetable oil. Set aside.
- 5. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan or stockpot.
- 6. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 or 16 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.
- 7. 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 (see photo above). Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- 8. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 or 2 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer or spatula, and return to the baking sheet. Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt, if using.
- 9. Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 12-14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
What flavour will yours be? 🙂