Mar 2011

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Homemade Soft Pretzels

The Astronomer and my mother have one very interesting thing in common—a compulsion to buy soft pretzels while shopping at the mall. Whether sweet or savory, Auntie Anne’s or Wetzel’s Pretzels, the two most important people in my life always seek out this warm and carby pick-me-up whenever I’m focused on expanding my wardrobe.

While my mom and I were trolling the shops at Fashion Valley last weekend, she paused for a pretzel break in between our requisite stops at Banana Republic and J. Crew. Craving something on the savory side, she chose a plain pretzel slicked with melted butter and sprinkled with coarse salt. Maybe I was malnourished from shopping so intensely this afternoon, but the pretzel tasted incredibly good. Its texture was soft yet toasty, while its flavors were rich and satisfying. I stole more than half a dozen bites from my mama.

Several days later, I was still thinking about that darn pretzel. Rather than drive to the mall for an easy fix, I headed to the supermarket for yeast and kosher salt. Homemade pretzels are far and away more laborious than forking over $3 to the lady behind the counter; however, I found the entire process fun, challenging, and quite delicious.

The pretzels taste best fresh out of the oven, so go ahead and eat four in one sitting. It’s the right thing to do.

  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Preheat oven to 425°.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a nonaluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt. For cinnamon and sugar pretzels, omit the salt completely.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Paint with melted butter for extra richness if desired. For cinnamon and sugar pretzels, paint with butter and sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Makes 12 pretzels.

Recipe by Cooking Light, October 2005. [For Printable Recipe Click Here]

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35 thoughts on “Homemade Soft Pretzels

  1. Bao – Vern gets all the credit for these beauties. Since I’m recovering from a dislocated elbow, he rolled and formed all of these pretzels. Whatta guy 🙂

  2. Looks delicious! Any tips on what types of flavors you can use to customize and how to get them on the pretzels? Like those almond garlic and chive ones I always pass by in the mall.

  3. Cliff – Great question! I haven’t experimented with flavors other than plain and cinnamon/sugar, but my gut feeling is that adding various herbs and nuts shouldn’t be a problem. The problem with mimicking the flavors from the pretzel places in the mall is that they’re usually enhanced with mysterious powders made in factories. In other words, totally artificial stuff. I think you can do a lot better with whole foods! For example, for the garlic one, you can try adding finely minced garlic to the dough and top with shredded Parmesan cheese during baking. For the chive flavor, perhaps you can add dried chives to the batter. And for the almonds, it seems that you’ll need some sort of sugar glaze to paint on the pretzels when they come out of the oven so that the sliced almonds will adhere. Whew! That was a long response. Hopefully, it was helpful. Let me know if you need more ideas.

  4. I like your logic about eating a couple warm out of the oven. My goal this summer is to cook more yeast breads, and these are going on my list. As for other flavors, what about simple cinnamon sugar and a cheese/herb combo?

  5. Wow – Cathy – you’re so talented and definitely patient. I would have totally forked over $3 to the lady behind the counter! Your pretzels turned out beautiful and I know I could eat 4 staight out of the oven in one sitting! Nothing beats fresh baked goods!

  6. how lovely! I didn’t know they were boiled in the process… yikes, a dislocated elbow sounds so painful, but it looks like your vern is taking good care of you!

  7. Oh man, now you’ve got me craving soft pretzels! Fortunately, this is one treat I can indulge in during Lent! Woohoo!

  8. these look great! I am always on the prowl for a great pretzel recipe. Although, in true mall fashion, I do enjoy mine with nacho cheese 😀

  9. These look delicious! I think I’ll try them this weekend, for a baby shower potluck… if I have the option of using bread flour, do you think that would be better than the all-purpose or is all-purpose the way to go? Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  10. How delicious. I’ve made homemade pretzel recipes before but none included the boiling step. It makes sense, though I used to make homemade bagels and you boiled those too. I’m sure it will add what the pretzel recipes I’ve tried lacked.

  11. Molly – I’ve never worked with high-gluten bread flour, so I’m not certain if it would be a good substitution in this situation. However, a quick search online yielded a bunch of pretzel recipes calling for bread flour. Perhaps use one of those recipes to be sure that you’ll have delicious pretzels 🙂

  12. I want to say ditto! I love the soft pretzels at shopping malls – even airports sometimes.
    Maybe finally I’ll make some at home.
    Your pretzels look yum!

  13. I love making soft pretzels. And the dough freezes really well. So now I almost always have some frozen dough making it much easier to eat homemade ones rather than the mall court ones.

  14. I made these this afternoon with friends and they were very easy and turned out perfect! Thanks for the wonderful recipe, I can’t wait to make them again.

  15. Since I live in Austria I can get great pretzels anywhere but I’ll miss them in a few months when I go home to NZ. I’m going to bookmark this so I can make them if I get a craving ^_^

  16. hi, i was just wondering if there is anything else i can use instead of cornmeal? i live in norway and it is really hard to find. i know cornstarch is not the same, but could i use that or something else? thanks 🙂
    i would love to try this recipe since you can’t buy soft pretzels anywhere in norway

  17. PandaPrada – The purpose of the cornmeal in this recipe is to prevent the pretzels from sticking to the baking sheet and to provide some texture. I would suggest coating your baking sheet with some extra oil to prevent sticking, and on the texture front, the pretzels will still taste great without cornmeal on the bottom. Good luck!

  18. I just finished making these, and they were suprisingly easy! I also took your advice, and downed four of them. Had two of the salted ones for lunch, and had two cinammon sugar ones for desert. Best lunch I’ve had in a long time. 😉

  19. Found your delicious recipe through Pinterest. Does it have to be boiled in a non aluminum dutch oven? I only have a logistina set and buying a new pan is not an option for soft pretzels 🙁 But they look fabulous. Hope your elbow is better!

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