The perfect homemade soft pretzel: the research continues

perfect homemade soft pretzel

The nice folks at King Arthur Flour, in their most recent catalog, posted a recipe for pretzel sandwich buns.  I made them, and they were very nice, but I thought: well, why sandwich buns? Why can’t I make nice soft pretzels at home?

I can, as it turns out.

But not a single batch has turned out perfectly yet. Some have a nice sourdough flavor, but lack consistency. Some are too bready. Some are too tough.

I’ve made at least four batches so far. They’re all good, but none has been perfect.

I’m still working on it.

Here’s the best version so far:

Combine –

  • 2 cups flour (white, or a mix of white and whole-wheat)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 T instant dry yeast
  • 1 T butter
  • A scant cup of warm water
  • A pinch of sugar, or a scant teaspoon of honey

Mix, and knead for at least five minutes, using enough extra flour to make a nice smooth non-sticky dough. Put down in a greased bowl, covered with a dampened cloth, in a quiet place, for at least an hour (preferably more), until the dough has doubled. (A longer rise gives a yeastier flavor, which I like.)

Punch down the dough, divide into eight pieces, and roll each into a long rope about 15 inches long. Tie into a pretzel shape. Here’s a video to show you how:

(You can tie a double knot too. But practice a bit first.)

Place your eight pretzel children on a greased surface, cover with a dampened cloth for 15-30 minutes, and let them rest. While that’s going on, prepare for the end of the process as follows:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Prepare a water bath: a saucepan with about a quart of water and about ¼ cup baking soda, heated to boiling.
  • Also break an egg into a large bowl and beat it.
  • Also line a baking sheet with parchment paper, or (second best) grease a baking sheet heavily.

Carefully drop your unbaked pretzels one or two at a time (depending on the size of your saucepan) into the boiling-water bath. Flip after 30 seconds or so. Take out of the boiling water after a minute.

Let the boiled pretzels rest for a few seconds. Give them a bath in the beaten egg (both sides), place them on the baking sheet, and dust them with coarse salt. (Coarse sea salt is inexpensive and easily available, at least locally.)

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden-brown.

Cool, and serve with butter or mustard. If there are any left the next day, reheat them in the microwave for (literally) ten seconds or so, and they’ll be almost like new.

Still not perfect, I know. Something’s missing.

But I’ll figure it out. I’ve got lots of time on my hands.

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