Homemade Soft Pretzels

Confession: I ate pretzels for dinner last night.

I started out the evening with the greatest intentions, honestly. I even made a delicious, well-balanced meal. Bell peppers stuffed with ground turkey, brown rice, tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Parmesan farfalle. Fresh green beans. A dinner that would make the people at the USDA with their food pyramid proud.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be), all of my good intentions were forgotten the moment these pretzels came out of the oven.

Multiple pretzels later, dinner was cold on the stove, and I was on the sofa in a pretzel coma.

Lucky for me, no one says anything to a pregnant woman when she consumes soft pretzels instead of the dinner she spent hours making. Three months of saltines and Ginger Ale give you all the cred you need to eat whatever you want. Trust me. I know.

Now, let me clarify. We’re not talking about the stale Rold Golds that you got with half a cup of fat-free milk as a post-nap snack in kindergarten.

We’re talking bona fide, made-from-scratch, full-of-yeasty-goodness pretzels.

The kind that make your whole house smell like a German bakery.

The kind that make your husband kiss your feet and forgive all of your past transgressions (well, at least the ones from the past week or so…)

The kind that make you forget why you ever gave up carbs in the first place (not that you would you do such a silly thing)

Make them right, and they’re life. changing.

Golden brown on the outside, oh-so-soft and chewy on the inside.

They make you want to curl up on your sofa and stuff your face until you fall into a pretzel coma.

Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

Move aside, Auntie Anne. There’s a new pretzel baker in town.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown

Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 2 hours
Makes 8 pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon 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

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. 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, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly 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, 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 onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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