the moveable feasts

Homemade Soft Pretzels (with a honey-mustard dipping sauce)

with 20 comments

soft pretzels, homemade

There are those recipes that you’ve had bookmarked in a folder on your computer or scrawled down on a “to-make” list in some notebook for months, maybe even years, and then there are the recipes that you pick up at a spur-of-the-moment, convenience-and-necessity-comes-first type of time.

This recipe for soft pretzels is of the latter sort, I am sorry to say. Because really, this is the type of thing that needs to be on everyone’s list. It should have been on mine a long time ago (shame, shame). I think it was just one of those things, you know? That you don’t ever really think about, that most people would rather just pick up at their local mall’s Auntie Anne’s if they have an hankering for it, and that just honestly sounds a little intimidating to undertake.

refrigerate it
rolled out

(By the way, if you’re of that sort that thinks this kind of recipe is intimidating because it requires the parboiling of the pretzels before they make it to the oven, please think about this: you boil and simmer things all the time. You put things in the oven all the time. Now just do it to yeasted dough shaped in pretty twists and ties! Really, it’s simple. And I’m willing to say that even if you mess up a little here or there, it’ll still turn out pretty incredible.)

simmer in water with baking soda + beer

Anyway, the thought of making soft pretzels hadn’t crossed my mind or, for that matter, any of my many folders on my computers or to-make lists cluttered on my desk, until my boyfriend brought it up when he was visiting me last weekend. When I asked him what he wanted me to make him for dinner, he responded pretty clearly: soft pretzels and soup. (Ooh that’s why I like him! So straightforward and decisive. The opposite of me and my many, undecided lists.) But even with the excitement with the prospects of warm, soft pretzels, I was apprehensive about how successful they would be. I just had that lingering, uncertain doubt.

salt it

Not only did they turn out, but they were so addictingly satisfying that I vowed to myself I would make them every few weeks or so–to which my boyfriend and roommates happily agreed. The only testy part of the process was the dough itself: it’s a tight, heavy dough, which means that my KitchenAid mixer couldn’t knead it properly and my arm muscles got quite the workout that night. But it’s all worth it, trust me. Instead of opting for making them all at once (the pretzels are best warm from the oven as can be expected), I kept strings of the dough in a freezer-ziploc bag in the fridge the next couple days so I could pull out a couple lengths of it whenever we wanted fresh pretzels.

baked and brown

My boyfriend made a simple honey-mustard dip to go along with the pretzels, and let me tell you, the two combined was heaven– I don’t care how much of a cliche it is to say that. Chewy, soft, salty and warm pretzels with that familiar and distinct pretzel taste, dipped into a tangy-sweet mustard sauce. There’s not much more I can say, besides maybe two words: make these.

up close

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Martha Stewart, who got it from Sigmund Pretzelshop in NYC
Depending on the size, makes about a dozen or a little more

Spend the extra effort and make sure to use bread flour. I’ve tried making these with regular all-purpose flour and although the pretzels were still delicious, they were disappointing when compared with those made with bread flour.

2 cups warm water
1 (1/4 ounce) package rapid-rise yeast
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
4 tablespoons coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup pale ale-style beer
coarse salt, for topping the pretzels with

In a medium bowl, mix together the 2 cups warm water, yeast, and 1/2 cup brown sugar until combined and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and 4 tablespoons salt using your hands. Add the butter pieces and continue to mix with your hands, breaking up the butter,  until mixture is crumbly. Add yeast mixture and, again using your hands, mix until a shaggy dough is formed and the water is absorbed.

Once the water is absorbed, place the dough on a floured work surface and knead with your hands until the dough is tight, elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes. It will be dense and heavy, but make sure you knead it long enough so that it’s flexible, too. Resist adding too much flour, chances are you don’t need it and the dough should become more elastic and smooth as it goes. Once kneaded, place in a large, oiled bowl, moving the dough around so that it’s coated in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it just about doubles, about an hour and a half later. Alternatively, transfer to refrigerator and let chill at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Turn out the dough on a clean work surface and roll out the dough into an approximate 14-by-12-inch rectangle. Cut dough into one dozen 12-inch-long strips (you might get a bit more, depending on the size you want your pretzels to be), each about 1-inch wide. Transfer to a large baking sheet and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Transfer to refrigerator and let chill for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine 8 cups water, the 1/2 cup baking soda, beer and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Spray a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, stretch out eat piece into a “rope” until it’s about 3/4 inch thick all the way around, starting from the center and working towards the ends. Make a “U” shape with the rope and cross the ends over once or twice, pinching at the bottom of the “U” to form a pretzel. Repeat process with remaining dough.

Simmer pretzels, one at a time for about 30 seconds; transfer to prepared baking sheet using a perforated spatula. Repeat process with remaining pretzels.

Sprinkle pretzels with pretzel salt; transfer to the preheated oven and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the pretzels turn a chestnutty-golden brown color. Remove from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve warm with honey mustard dipping sauce, recipe below.

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce 

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/4 cup good mayonnaise
2 tablespoons honey
pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix together all ingredients until well combined.

Written by Amy

February 13, 2012 at 11:33 pm

Posted in Breads

Tagged with , ,

20 Responses

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  1. These look like bready heaven! I made bagels recently and love dunking the dough in water – it’s kind of therapeutic :-)


    February 15, 2012 at 1:47 am

  2. Oh Amy – your photos are always sooo awesome – I love them!!
    I also REALLY love pretzels (as does my husband) and I have definitely bookmarked these… lets hope I make them soon right?
    Im also a total mustard obsessive (and a massively indecisive husband, whilst my husband is always VERY clear).
    Pretzel and soup craving has just commenced!

    Em (Wine and Butter)

    February 15, 2012 at 7:34 am

  3. Great recipe. I was going to make the Cooks Illustrated pretzle recipe but I like this one better. My hubs and kids have been wanting me to make pretzles for awhile now.


    February 15, 2012 at 8:09 am

    • Ah I couldn’t find a recipe for soft pretzels on Cook’s Illustrated’s site when I was doing research! Hmph, now I’m wondering what the differences are… well anyway, this recipe did turn out pretty flawlessly if I do say so myself. But if you ever do happen to make the Cook’s version, let me know how those go because I’m curious now haha. :)


      February 15, 2012 at 11:45 am

  4. Ok so I totally need a friend like you who makes pretzels on a whim! Why have I never thought to do this at home before? And the ones in the mall gross me out. I’m bookmarking them and hopefully making them soon! Great idea. Would love to make these when we have friends over to watch a game…beer, pretzels, wonderful.


    February 15, 2012 at 9:29 am

    • You’re right! We didn’t have any beer to drink, but all my boyfriend and I could think about while eating these pretzels was, “oh my god these would be SO good with some beer.” And I don’t even like beer usually!


      February 15, 2012 at 11:50 am

  5. if i don’t have these soon I will die. T_T


    February 15, 2012 at 11:02 am

  6. I love soft pretzels! I’ll definitely have to try these. I’m excited about the beer in them and the sugar in the baking soda bath–these can only be good things. I keep meaning to go to Sigmund every time I’m in New York, but you know how it is when you have one day in the city and you want to eat something on every corner…by the time I’m in the right neighbourhood, I’ve already stuffed my face with a doughnut, a pretzel croissant, and a bowlful of Momofuku ramen noodles.
    Love the last photo with the closeup of the twist.


    February 15, 2012 at 11:11 am

    • The beer and sugar in the baking soda bath is what made me commit to this recipe–I think you’re right in saying that that combination of flavors can’t be bad for the pretzels. And at least you’ve been to New York! Better to be there weighing the decisions between all that great food than to never have had any of it… like me! Ahh, whine whine


      February 15, 2012 at 11:49 am

      • I’m sure you’ll get there someday soon :) Besides, you live in the Pacific NW. How bad could that be?


        February 15, 2012 at 8:20 pm

  7. These look great, and I love the idea of baking them as I need them!


    February 20, 2012 at 1:33 pm

  8. They really should be on my list, you’re right. Now I want to go in the kitchen and make them right now. I’ll wait for another day, but can you tell me what Pretzel salt is? Is it just a coarse salt?


    February 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

    • It’s just a big-grained salt that resists melting (more than usual, I’m guessing? Haha). I didn’t have any so I just threw some sea salt on the pretzels… I think any coarse salt would do!


      February 23, 2012 at 11:31 am

  9. Great, I just reread the comments and noticed your answer. The dough is raising, so I’m only an hour or so away from eating pretzels. Yay. I think I’m going to use fleur de sel, that is the only coarse salt I have at home.

  10. makin these tonight. AHORA. JETZT. ORA!

    also, how can something be “addictingly satisfying” ? Wouldn’t that be a paradox?


    September 12, 2012 at 3:46 pm

  11. hey i made these and the crust is so doughy!!!! how do i make it hard and crunchy?!!!!!


    August 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    • make sure you are boiling them for long enough, that’s what gives them their chewy crust


      August 25, 2013 at 12:21 am

  12. This design is steller! You most certainly know
    how to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos,
    I was almost moved to start my own blog (well,
    almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you
    had to say, and more than that, how you
    presented it. Too cool!

  13. I made these twice in the past few weeks and I have some thoughts!! The first time I was at my brother’s house, and he did have coarse chunky salt, and it worked great, the dough was great, all was great and the pretzels came out awesomely. The second time I made them I only had normal kosher salt (smallish flakes), and I was having a lot of trouble getting the dough to rise well. The first time, with the coarse salt chunks, I had noticed that as the dough rose I could see little “spots” on it where the coarse salt chunks had dissolved over the course of the rising… the second time, with the littler salt, I let the dough rise 2 hours, halfway through put it in a really warm place, and it was STILL sluggish and barely rose (the pretzels in the end did come out pretty good, still). But I was thinking that with 4 tbsp coarse salt chunks, you would end up with a lot less salt in the dough than with little crystals- little ones would fit in the tablespoon tighter, and thus the dough would be saltier? Kinda dorky, ya know, but it makes sense? And it did seem that the pretzels were much saltier the second time I made them… both times I ate two, but the second time I was way thirstier later that day. And, I was reading online, that at times a problem with dough not rising is because too much salt in the dough can kill the yeast. SO! That is what I’ve experienced, I would say I’d go to the effort of securing coarse salt for the next time I make these :)

    From Karen, your sister’s friend from the Tetons haha. I always read your blog and I love it, so keep writing, missy!


    September 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

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