Pretzelicious, please
January 31, 2012 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have a soft pretzel recipe they swear by? I made Alton Brown's recipe, linked to in this older question, for last year's Super Bowl, and mine came out awfully bland -- bread with salt on top.
posted by troywestfield to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Most good pretzel recipes will come out looking a lot like that one.

If you want more flavor, maybe try a sourdough style yeast starter instead of packaged yeast. Also make sure that you use quality ingredients, especially a nice, (probably relatively expensive, heh) coarse salt. Real butter, not margarine, etc.

Make thin pretzels that aren't TOO fat and fluffy, and eat them hot and fresh. Careful not to over knead or overcook, or they'll come out drab and chewy.

I mean, they ARE bread with salt on top. But they can also be delicious. Maybe consider how you pair them as well. A hot mustard sauce for dipping may put that zing back into the dish.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:44 AM on January 31, 2012

Lye is what makes a pretzel a pretzel. It just is. Its the chemical reaction between the lye and the wheat that creates that distinctive flavor. The nyt has a decent recipe for the dough - but really its just a slightly rich white bread dough. I'd retard it over night to develop more flavor as well. Not sure the sourdough starter is worth the effort, but if you've got one going why the hell not? Or start with a pate fermentee instead.
posted by JPD at 9:51 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

We use that Alton Brown recipe and love the results. Are you sure you didn't skip a step or something?
posted by crabintheocean at 10:26 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had good luck with this recipe. I follow it pretty much as is, apart from slightly reducing the salt in the dough. The overnight chill helps to develop a bit more character in the dough. The baking soda and beer-infused simmering liquid does a good job of approximating that pretzel-y flavor in the absence of lye (I've never been motivated enough to go down that rubber-gloved road; maybe someday.)
posted by messica at 10:27 AM on January 31, 2012

This one from Smitten Kitchen worked perfectly for me (based on the Martha Stewart recipe that messica linked).
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:32 AM on January 31, 2012

Self-link of a recipe culled from Usenet many, many years ago: Laugenbröten (Pretzel Rolls). You definitely need parchment paper or a Silpat to prevent them sticking to the pan, but they are very tasty.
posted by phrits at 11:10 AM on January 31, 2012

The NY Times had an interesting piece a little while ago on how to bake baking soda to increase its alkalinity - it includes instructions on how to use the baked baking soda for soft pretzels. Might get you a little closer to that lye-based flavor.
posted by yarrow at 11:38 AM on January 31, 2012

I was born in Philadelphia, and my babysitter when I was growing up lived next to the Federal Pretzel factory. The closest thing I've found to a Philly soft pretzel is the New York Times recipe. Do not substitute anything for the lye.

I tried retarding the dough overnight, but did not detect any difference in taste. However, the color was a bit paler.
posted by novalis_dt at 1:47 PM on January 31, 2012

I just did pretzels in class today. I still have the salt taste on my tongue. Hopefully you have a scale because we do everything by weight. And I'm sorry for the lack of final baking time but she's trying to get us away from thinking about things being done at a time and into thinking that things are done at a certain state.

1#8oz bread flour
15oz room temp water
1oz fresh yeast

Final Dough:
2#8oz sponge
2#7oz bread flour
1#4oz milk
3oz soft butter
1.25oz salt
1.5oz fresh yeast
1.25oz dough conditioner

Dipping mixture:
1.5oz lye
2#3oz water

- Mix sponge and let ferment 15 minutes
- Straight mix final dough 3 minutes on low then 5 minutes on medium
- Divide into 4oz pieces. Roll out log, shape into a pretzel and place on a well greased paper lined sheet pan
- Proof until double the size, then put in freezer for around 10 minutes
- Mix lye and water together. Don't touch the lye because it's dangerous.
- Dip the pretzels into the lye and place on a very well greased (and clean) paper lined sheet pan and sprinkle with course salt
- Bake at 400F until golden brown (roughly 20 minutes? I think I'm remembering that right.)
posted by theichibun at 2:09 PM on January 31, 2012

I was on the search for the perfect soft pretzel for a while. After going to several of those soft pretzel places at different malls and shopping centers, I realized that everything I liked about certain soft prezels was already in Little Ceasars Crazy bread. Soft, buttery, salty, cheesey, and garlicy.
posted by udon at 2:41 PM on January 31, 2012

Can't stress enough the need to grease your parchment. Trust me. Not fun plucking little pieces of baked on parchment off pretzels.
posted by JPD at 2:53 PM on January 31, 2012

Or losing pretzel to the paper, although that's better than eating paper.
posted by theichibun at 2:58 PM on January 31, 2012

We've had great luck with the Alton recipe, too. Did you do the baking soda step?
posted by purenitrous at 9:22 PM on January 31, 2012

Response by poster: Definitely did the baking soda step. Thanks to all for the suggestions. Will probably try the Times recipe and report back on Monday ...
posted by troywestfield at 5:44 AM on February 1, 2012

Response by poster: Oops, meant Martha's recipe.
posted by troywestfield at 5:46 AM on February 1, 2012

Response by poster: Martha sucks. :(
posted by troywestfield at 9:29 AM on February 8, 2012

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