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Appetizers, Breads

Homemade Pretzels

by Nick

A few weeks ago I went up to NYC for a friend’s birthday party (Hi Liz!). Being in New York reminded me of one of my favorite street foods. Whether it’s in New York or in Philly or anywhere else really, I’m almost always up for a good soft pretzel with a bit of spicy mustard.

After I got back I just had to give homemade pretzels a shot. Turns out these were a huge success.

There’s really only two secrets to making a really good soft pretzel and we will get to both of them. One of them is kind of optional even. But let’s get down to business.

Yield
8 Pretzels
Prep Time
Total Time
Print Recipe

Homemade Pretzels

Homemade Pretzels

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 Cups warm water, 110 degrees or should be pretty warm to the touch.
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 1/4 Teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
  • 22 ounces All-purpose flour, about 4.5 Cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil
  • 15 Cups water
  • 1 Cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • Pretzel salt

Directions

1) Combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast into a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes.

2) Mix in the melted butter and flour. If you have a mixer, just put on the dough hook and let it work until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It should form a soft ball after about 4 or 5 minutes.

3) Without a mixer, to simulate a dough hook, dip your hand in a cup of water every few minutes and use it to mix the dough vigorously. After a few minutes it comes together in a nice ball. This dough does not need to pass the windowpane test.

4) After 5 minutes or so of kneading, transfer the dough to a bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil and turn it a few times to coat the dough ball with oil. Cover it and let it sit at room temperature for 60 minutes to rise.

5) Take the dough and divide it evenly (a dough cutter is helpful here) into 8 pieces. Each piece should weigh about 4 ounces.

6) Roll the dough out into about a 2 foot strip, starting from the center and rolling out gently. If it isn’t stretching you can hold the dough by both ends and gently whip it up and down. It will loosen up the gluten a bit. Then take the left end and wrap it to the center and then overlay the right side. Then kind of adjust it so it's pretzel-like.

7) Bring the water and baking soda to a rolling boil and gently lay in a pretzel, one or two at a time. You’ll need a pretty good sized pot. The pretzel will float and after about 30 seconds, flip it over in the water with a spatula to get the other side. Then after another 30 gently lift it out and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet, ready to go for the oven.

8) Once the pretzels come out of the boil, brush them with some egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tablespoon water) and then sprinkle them generously with the pretzel salt.

9) Bake at 450 degrees for about 14 minutes.

10) Immediately move them to a cooling rack.

11) After they cool you can pile them high on a plate. Or eat them right away! I like mine with just a bit of mustard.

Recipe from Alton Brown.


Making the dough

This dough is pretty easy to pull together. Combine your water, sugar, salt and yeast into a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. It should start to foam as the yeast comes alive.

Froth and foam is good.

Froth and foam is good.

Then mix in your melted butter and flour. If you have a mixer, just put on the dough hook and let it work until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. It should form a soft ball after about 4 or 5 minutes.

I, however, do not have a mixer, so I just mixed it by hand. To simulate a dough hook, I dip my hand in a cup of water every few minutes and use it to mix the dough vigorously. After a few minutes it comes together in a nice ball. This dough does not need to pass the windowpane test.

After 5 minutes or so of kneading, transfer the dough to a bowl that has been coated with vegetable oil and turn it a few times to coat the dough ball with oil. Cover it and let it sit at room temperature for 60 minutes to rise.

Should come out looking about like this.

After just an hour rise.

After just an hour rise.

Shaping the Pretzels

Making these guys is not as hard as you might thing. Take your dough and divide it evenly (a dough cutter is helpful here) into 8 pieces. If you are anal like me you can weigh your dough before hand and then you’ll know that each piece should weigh about 4 ounces. Or you can just eyeball it.

In my opinion, there’s no need to do any fancy schmancy pretzel shaping. I like to do a very basic shape. Roll your dough out into about a 2 foot strip, starting from the center and rolling out gently. If it isn’t stretching you can hold the dough by both ends and gently whip it up and down. It will loosen up the gluten a bit.

Then take the left end and wrap it to the center and then overlay the right side. Then kind of adjust it so the pretzel looks like, well, a pretzel.

Make sense?

Make sense?

Boiling the pretzels

This is tip number one in making an awesome soft pretzel. Just like it is important to boil bagels, boiling the pretzels will give them a good texture and also let them get really browned in the oven.

Bring your water and baking soda to a rolling boil and gently lay in a pretzel, one or two at a time. You’ll need a pretty good sized pot. The pretzel will float and after about 30 seconds, flip it over in the water with a spatula to get the other side. Then after another 30 gently lift it out and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet, ready to go for the oven.

WARNING:  When you add the baking soda to the boiling water, do so slowly.  If you pour it all at once, it’ll explode.  Think volcano science experiment….

Just like a bagel.

Just like a bagel.

Your pretzels shouldn’t fall apart in the water, but if they do, just kind of reform the pretzel when it comes out of the water. Out of my 8, I had one pretzel that kind of fell apart, but it was pretty easy to reform it once I got it out of the water.

Pretzel salt

Tip two in making a good at-home pretzel is using the right salt. If you really want the pretzel like they have on the streets, you’ll need to buy some pretzel salt. It’s in larger granules than Kosher salt, but because it is just compacted salt, it dissolves really easily, filling your mouth with that familiar salty taste.

See the difference?

See the difference?

I think you could use Kosher salt or sea salt, but if you have the time it would be worth looking for some. I wasn’t able to find any in the grocery store, but it isn’t too expensive to order some online.

Once your pretzels come out of the boil, brush them with some egg wash (1 egg and 1 Tablespoon water) and then sprinkle them generously with the salt.

In my opinion, good salt makes a good pretzel.

In my opinion, good salt makes a good pretzel.

These guys need to bake at 450 degrees for about 14 minutes. They should be golden brown when they come out. Immediately move them to a cooling rack.

All lined up.

All lined up.

After they cool you can pile them high on a plate.

Good lookin' plate.

Good lookin’ plate.

Or eat them right away! I like mine with just a bit of mustard. If you wanted to go all out, you could even make some homemade mustard for these guys.

All it needs is a little mustard.

All it needs is a little mustard.

These turned out pretty perfect honestly. They were a bit crunchy but soft and bready on the inside. The salt was great and they were as fresh as you can get.

I can’t imagine a reason why you shouldn’t make these. They would make you some serious friends at a party.

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