Homemade Soft Pretzels

Homemade Soft Pretzels


Soft pretzels are always made with yeast dough and are in fact very similar to bagels in both composition and construction.

Although there is such a thing as salt-less pretzels, called “baldies,” I would suggest that they’re really not pretzels at all, but rather cruel jokes perpetrated by bitter bakers.

If you don’t have pretzel salt, coarse sea salt will do.

HOMEMADE SOFT PRETZELS
Yields 8
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups warm water, 110-115 degrees F
  2. 1 tablespoon sugar
  3. 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  4. 1 envelope active dry yeast
  5. 22 ounces all-purpose flour
  6. 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  7. Vegetable oil, for the bowl and pan
  8. 10 cups water
  9. 2/3 cup baking soda
  10. 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  11. Pretzel salt
Instructions
  1. Combine the 1 1/2 cups warm water, the sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes, or until the mixture foams.
  2. 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, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, then oil it well. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  4. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with oil. Set aside.
  5. Bring the 10 cups water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a 12-inch straight-sided saute pan or a roasting pan (something wide and shallow is best).
  6. Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly 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, and, 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 on a half sheet pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  7. One by one, place the pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return them to the sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture, and sprinkle with pretzel salt.
  8. Bake until dark golden brown in color, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. If you don't have pretzel salt, coarse sea salt will do.
ALTON BROWN http://altonbrown.com/

85 Comments

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  1. 2
    Gary Z.

    Take the pretzels out just as they are getting golden brown. I usually pull them out at 12 minutes and they taste great. But this time, I left the second tray in longer and though they looked like beautiful traditional store-pretzel deep brown, they were bitter. With enough mustard they can be salvageable. But maybe dialing down the baking soda could help, too, if you want to go for the darker color and longer bake time.
    I’m surprised that Mr. Brown hasn’t addressed this issue here.

  2. 3
    Susan

    I used pretzels as a side dish to homemade beef and mushroom stew with a thick rich gravy. Dipped into the stew these pretzels were fantastic. So much better than biscuits.

  3. 4
    JudyDawn

    JudyDawn on February 7, 2015 at 10:32am
    Made this recipe, pretzels looked beautiful but 2/3 cup baking soda is too much. Tasted good out of the oven but when cool, there is a bitter taste and I had to throw the rest out.

  4. 5
    Juana

    Richard and Annie, using the cold method instead of boiling do you skip the egg wash? Once you have soaked for 3-4 mins in the cold solution, then salt and air dry, and into the oven they go. No egg wash?

  5. 6
    Shealeen

    I made these pretzels today and they turned out great! I followed the instructions as per the recipe and they were easy to make & so delicious! Fluffy inside and crunchy on the outside.Served them with Dijon mustard while they were still warm.Divine!

  6. 8
    Eniko

    I just made these as bites for a New Year’s Party and didn’t adjust a thing. The only caution is that if you double or triple the batch, change out the water at least halfway through. It gets gross and makes the pretzels very bitter if its on too long.

  7. 10
    Becky

    Any ideas on adjustments of baking time if I wanted to do pretzel bites instead of the big pretzels? Do I even need to adjust at all? Would love to turn this into an appetizer for the holidays.

  8. 12
    Elise

    This recipe worked great, and I found a very useful tip for getting the pretzels even browner. Before you start making the pretzels, preheat your oven to 250F, spread the baking soda on a parchment-lined pan, and bake it until you are ready to boil the pretzels. This makes the baking soda more alkaline and closer to the pH of lye. It really helps!

  9. 14
    Bexa

    I LOVED this recipe!! It was SO MUICH FUN!! Made it with my kids and it came out PERFECT. We decided that next time, we’re going to make ‘pretzel bites’ and dipping sauces. that way we can have a party! (Although I felt highly accomplished by making the pretzel knots! Thank you Mr. Alton Brown for presenting this recipe in a way that gave me the confidence to try it in my own tiny kitchen! I felt like a ROCK STAR!

  10. 15
    Austin

    As a baking & pastry student I can tell you there’s a very simple reason why professional pastry chefs choose to measure by weight: It’s more accurate. Period. With cooking you can fudge it, but we’re baking people. It may sound tired, but baking IS a science and it may not seem like a massive difference but weighing your ingredients ensures that you’re getting the same product EVERY time.

  11. 16
    stupid

    Stupid recipe. First it’s almost exactly the same as Bobby Flay’s recipe for pizza dough. Second, the units of measure are stupid. “22 ounces” of flour? What kind of retard calls for flour in terms of “ounces”? Huh? Why should I go look up the conversion because this oddball, sloppy idiot wants to give oddball and stupid units of measure. Why not give them in metric? Idiot. Seriously go find something else to do, like running the fryer at Red Lobster. Oh wait. They use teaspoons, tablespoons and cups there too. Guess you are out of luck dude. Idiot. Maybe you can get a doctor to say you are disabled so you can live off the government instead.

    • 17
      CJ

      Wow, you sure have a lot of anger about a pretzel recipe. The R word was totally unnecessary. Also, do you know Alton at all? He has good reasons for using weights instead of volumes for measurement. I think it would be best if you just moved along.

    • 18
      Jennifer

      Actually, I think it’s pretty helpful to talk in ounces of flour – for the reason that flour settles. According to one cookbook I have, you’re supposed to fluff it with a fork or sift it before you scoop it to measure. This makes the flour lighter. You could have 1.25 times the flour that was intended in a recipe if you measure by the cup.

    • 19
      It's ok

      I know you may not realize it, but professional bakers, and better home bakers always use weight instead of volume when measuring ingredients. If you bake a lot, get a kitchen scale, it’s a great investment!

    • 20
      AO

      Because baking is a science and weight is more accurate, most professional pastry chefs and bakers always measure by weight. every bread bakery and artisan bakery I have worked in we measure by weight. In culinary school we measure by weight. At home, because that is how I was trained, I do all of my baking by weight. The only idiots are one who post crass messages before knowing their facts and show such vulgarity toward an amazing chef who teaches the science behind everything he makes.

    • 21
      David

      I know you are a troll, but I am going to respond anyway. 22 ounces in this case is not capacity, it’s weight. When baking you are best to use weight. So if you really want metric, that would be 0.62 KG, or 623 grams. Does that look better to you?

  12. 22
    Laurie

    We have serious egg allergies in our home. Can I replace the egg glaze with an oil of some sort? Been an avid fan since the early days of Good Eats. You’re my all-time favorite Food Network Celeb. Nobody else comes close! Love you, Alton! xoxo

        • 25
          Andrew

          Laurie, my parents are also from Philly. I hate to speak ill of Alton Brown, but this is not the best recipe out there. My dad tried this recipe, and while the pretzels were good, they weren’t Philly Pretzels. Try finding a recipe on the web that calls for Malt Extract (an ingredient that makes all the difference in the flavor and can be found at your local homebrew (beer) supply store). My dad tried one, and boy did it make all the difference. The closest to Philly Soft Pretzels you can get without going all the way home!

  13. 26
    Lisa Brendle

    Despite various breads, and pretzels for that matter, are made with essentially the same ingredients and treated/kneaded the same, why do they have different textures? And flavors? I know butter brushed our flavored butter is obvious, I just wonder sometimes about that basic textural outcome.

  14. 27
    Rondi McGill

    Me. Brown, I thought the salt killed yeast and you shouldn’t add it while blooming the yeast. Does salt not kill the yeast?

  15. 28
    Janine

    The bretzel pictured is missing the twist.

    Shaping and freezing is done before dipping to ensure the bretzels keep their shape. Traditionally they are cut and then salted, while still wet, just before baking.

    No egg ever….German bretzels never have egg.

  16. 30
    Marcus Duckworth

    Substitute the water for a dark beer and enjoy. The extra nutty flavor is good enough that you will never use water to make pretzels again.

    • 32
      Olivia

      I use this recipe for pretzel bites all the time. I double the recipe and make the dough on the dough cycle in my Zojirushi bread maker (you have to help it get stirred in initially because it’s too much dough for the machine to handle at first.) Then roll into ropes, cut into pieces, and boil and bake just like it says in the instructions. Except I don’t glaze mine with anything and I bake on a Silpat rather than parchment. I know my reply is way late, but maybe you’ll get it. Good luck! 🙂

    • 36
      Athena

      Just mix by hand, that’s how I’ve been making them for years. I just got a stand mixer and it just makes them faster. Kind of like using a hand or stand mixer to make brownies or cakes, you can and they do the job faster, but totally do-able to use your hands. Happy baking!

  17. 38
    eebest8 Amen

    This is really interesting, You are a very skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your wonderful post. Also, I ave shared your website in my social networks!

    • 40
      denim

      You don’t need a stand mixer, it just makes life easier. If you’re good with making bread dough by hand, you can do it here, too. Mix the ingredients in a bowl or however you do it, then knead by hand, and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

    • 42
      Kelsey

      I made this recipe yesterday and it came out awesome! I paired it with a beer cheese dip and we snacked on pretzels all Sunday 🙂

  18. 45
    Mike G

    Can I boil the pretzels then let them rest a couple of hours before baking? I would like them warm for the Super Bowl and don’t want to boil them while my guests are in.

  19. 46
    Annie

    FYI… Thank you Richard! I made these tonight using your method of the baked baking soda and cold water. Absolutely perfect. Spot on flavor, texture & color. Husband says takes just like a mall pretzel. My only other advice is to roll 3 oz of dough into a pretzel. At 4.5oz they get quite thick and look more like a bagel or a pretzel roll.

    • 47
      Richard

      I’ll pass the thanks on to my wife. She saw the suggestion elsewhere and then did a bit of experimenting to find the best method. (e.g, cold or hot solution, etc. She blogs her experiments which you can see at doughcrafter.blogspot.com. See the “bread techniques” section.) I got to sample all the experiments, of course, and it was remarkable how much better the method I described came out.

  20. 48
    Richard

    Instead of lye, bake the baking soda (11 oz) in the oven for about an hour at 300 deg F while the dough is rising. This turns it into sodium (mono)carbonate, which is more alkaline than baking soda, but not as dangerous as lye. (Still, be mindful of the dust.) Then, add the sodium carbonate into 4 cups of COLD water and soak the pretzels in the solution for 3-4 minutes. Set them on the pan, salt them, and let them air dry for 15 minutes before baking. Recommend a 375 deg oven and baking should take 20-25 minutes, but just keep an eye on them for the right amount of browness. This treatment will give them a very pretzelly crust and flavor–more so than regular baking soda.

  21. 50
    Gordon

    Just a few notes: Volume measure of the flour for those of us who don’t have scales: About 4.5 cups. that;s based on the 3:1 ratio of flour to liquid to make dough.
    If you don’t have a stand mixer: You can mix this up and knead it by hand if necessary. I regualy make bread by hand and it comes out fine.

    • 53
      Tony

      It’s because a pound is a pound the world around. Meaning flour can vary in amount when measuring by cup because of air and if it has been sifted or not. Try it sometime, take a bunch of flour and put it in a big bowl, then scoop a cup and weight it, then do the same after scooping a bunch after sifting. The weight will differ.

  22. 54
    John

    Are the measurements of the dry ingredients by volume or weight? I weighed out 22 ounces of flour. I’m waiting for the dough to rise now…then it’s on to completing the snack!

  23. 56
    Ann Cooper

    I have his recipe in my collection from 2007. I included some people’s suggestions from the website then, and measurements as well as information about lye. I figure if Mr. A. Brown suggested a safer alternative, and it just lessens the resulting brownness of the pretzel, no problem. Hope this helps:
    • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water (or warm milk, approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave)
    • 1 tablespoon sugar, (or malt powder or brown sugar)
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 1 package active dry yeast
    • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, (approximately 4 1/2 cups)
    • 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
    (Lye (caustic soda, NaOH) started as many alkalis produced from rainwater filtering through wood ashes. It then became KOH, but in modern times is now commercially produced Sodium Hydroxide with a pH around 14 (baking soda is only 9… remember neutral (like water) is 7).

  24. 57
    Steve

    If one was to attempt this recipe with food-grade lye instead of baking soda (hypothetically) while wearing appropriate safety gear in a ventilated area, any tips on the ratio of lye to water, and how long to leave in the dip?

  25. 62
    Randy

    Alton … I don’t have a way of weighing the flour. When this recipe calls for 22 oz, is that the same as liquid measurement? Yeah, that’s your dumb question of the day! I win! 🙂

    • 66
      Claire

      Thanks! I was just lamenting the fact that I didn’t have a “stand mixer” when I saw your comment that you didn’t either and I clapped! 🙂

  26. 69
    Tracie

    is this dough freezable? I would like to shape the pretzels and freeze. If the dough us freezable, should I shape it before or after rising?

  27. 70
    Sharon

    I’m obsessed with soft pretzels. No more box mix, I’m excited to try these from scratch! Going to pair them with fondue and mustard for the game, I can’t wait!

  28. 71
    Steven Seydell

    I’ve made pretzels a few times and I’ve always had the problem where they would “sweat” and the salt would dissolve. Anyone have any solutions to that problem?

    • 72
      Ivy T

      Steven, are you using pretzel salt for the coating (or even kosher)? If the salt grains are too small (like with table salt), they will definitely dissolve on the surface. The larger grains of salt from pretzel salt shouldn’t have time to dissolve completely… just enough to adhere to the pretzels more securely after baking.

        • 75
          Ivy T

          So you are having problems after the baking is done, then. If it is sweating after, it might be a humidity issue with how it is being stored. Are you letting it cool down sufficiently before putting it in a storage container? Or is it sweating while sitting out on the counter?

  29. 76
    James

    Tracy, although the egg yolk gives a nice shine, the baking soda bath is most of the reason for the nice brown color of a pretzel. Give a batch a whirl without the egg and see how it goes.

  30. 77
    Krista

    Thank you! You’ve given me the courage to make pretzels for the first time! Hope to catch your show in Fresno in March. My husband and i are fans all the back to Good Eats.

    • 79
      Richard

      Tracy, there is a technique I describe in another comment here, where the baking soda is baked (making it more alkaline) and then the pretzel is soaked in a COLD solution instead of boiling. No egg wash is used and the color and flavor should come out exactly as you’d expect for a pretzel.

  31. 82
    Chie

    Yes, I just baked. but looks like table roll… It’s OK. taste good. I was made diffrent style. rolling sousage with mastard,topping on cheese. I love home made cooking and baking. thank you GOOD -EATS. Oh,Ya.

  32. 83
    Jade

    Hasn’t everybody already made this recipe? And I’ve never met a bitter baker, seems like an oxymoron, maybe it was just a ploy of a forgetful baker to peddle his unsalted goods?

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