Baker's Sign Soft Pretzels

By • July 31, 2012 • 11 Comments

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Author Notes: Lightly adapted from Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford's splendid Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the World (Artisan, 2003)Nicholas Day

Makes 8 pretzels

  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or active dry; the difference is minimal)
  • 1 cup milk, scalded and then cooled
  • 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt (fine grained)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in pieces and softened
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
  1. In a mixing bowl, stir the yeast into the lukewarm milk, then add the malt syrup and a cup of flour. Stir, then add the salt and butter and stir again. Add 1 1/2 cups more flour and mix well. Knead on a floured surface or in the bowl for approximately five minutes.
  2. Cover the bowl and let rise for about 90 minutes, or until doubled. The dough should have a soft, satiny feel to it.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with a baking stone, if you have it, or a baking sheet, if you don't.
  4. Lightly flour your cutting board or counter. Turn the dough onto your work surface and divide into 4 equal pieces; then cut each piece in half, so you have 8 total. Cover a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.
  5. Roll each piece of dough out by putting it under your palms and moving your palms back and forth to make a long coil. The dough will stretch easily and then snap back. Alternate between pieces of dough so that each has time to briefly relax; it will stretch farther afterward. You want each coil to be about 24 inches long.
  6. To shape the pretzels, take one end in each hand and twist them around each other a couple of inches from the ends of the coil. (You'll have what looks like a circle with a couple of antennae sticking up.) Lay the dough down on the parchment paper and fold the ends (the antennae) over so that they stick to the bottom of the circle -- it should now look more or less like a pretzel. Prepare another sheet of parchment paper or a flour-dusted peel.
  7. Meanwhile, boil 3 cups of water in a saucepan, then add the baking soda and stir to dissolve. With the water just below a simmer, pick up each pretzel with a spatula and hold it in the baking soda bath (on the spatula) for 20-30 seconds. It will puff up slightly and soften. When you remove the pretzel, let the baking soda water drain off the bottom (otherwise it will stick to the bottom and taste bitter), brush the top with the egg yolk and milk solution and then place on the new sheet of parchment paper or the peel. Sprinkle with salt.
  8. You can either bake each pretzel immediately after boiling and brushing or you can wait and put them in the oven in a single batch. (I do the latter.) Bake for about 10 minutes; check in after 8 minutes. They are done when golden brown. Do not overbake; you want the contrast between the crusty outside and the pillowy inside. Eat as soon as they are cool enough to handle.
Jump to Comments (11)

Comments (11) Questions (1)

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8 months ago Baker_Girl

If your pretzels were dense it is usually because your butter and milk were too warm, which negatively impacts your yeast-hence dense pretzels.

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11 months ago June Selders

And for those who are allergic to eggs (like me and so many kids - I am an adult), just use milk, right? Hopefully! Can't wait to make these. Thank you.

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over 1 year ago Nancy

Is there a sub for the barley malt syrup? I am allergic to barley.

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almost 2 years ago MrsMehitabel

I just made these twice in two days with my 2-year-old son- they were wonderful and he loved playing with the dough. I had thrown out my jar of malt syrup from bagel-making four years ago, but sorghum worked perfectly. We made his into "little holes" (his request- sort of doughnut-shaped) and mine into normal pretzels. The first time we were out of kosher salt, but there was a bag of coarse turbinado sugar on the shelf. I made most of them plain and just sprinkled them with salt from the shaker (still great- it would probably take much more weirdness to ruin these), and did two with raisins and sugar. The plain ones were delicious, but the raisin ones were something apart. The next day we did them all with raisins- we made the long strands of dough, then flattened them into 1" wide ribbons, stuck raisins in a line down the middle, folded the dough to the center and pinched it together so it was like a tube filled with raisins, and shaped, boiled, and baked them like normal, sprinkled with turbinado sugar instead of salt. The baking soda bath gave them a savory, mineral, indefinably "pretzelly" edge and softened the raisins inside. Sometimes the seam came open, but it didn't seem to negatively affect the end result as long as I let it drip in the slotted spoon for a moment before putting it on the tray. We also experimented with different shapes- we made treble clefs and half-sized pretzels since the raisins are rich, but our favorite were spiral-shaped ones. Sometimes they uncoiled slightly in the bath, but the rise in the oven took care of that. I also soaked two pretzels' worth of raisins in orange juice while the dough rose, and those were great, too. The wet raisins were a bit harder to place on the dough and made the dough harder to seal into a tube, but the flavor came through nicely. I think you could probably also use tea or a liquor that would go with the other flavors. All-in-all, they were so wonderful that I think they might be our family's new Christmas breakfast item, or some such thing. I cannot recommend these highly enough, and especially with raisins in them.

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almost 2 years ago shorty

They didn't exactly turn out "pillowy" but I wonder is it because I put the dough in the frig overnight because I didn't have time to cook in one day? Or did I not knead the dough enough? Or too much? They turned out pretty dense, but still good.

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almost 2 years ago Nicholas Day

Hi shorty,

That's funny -- they've never done that for me. I'd be surprised if the frig is the culprit, but if the dough didn't have time to warm up enough it might be. Otherwise: you got me.

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about 2 years ago daisybrain

What salt is appropriate for salting these? I'm assuming that they should be salted before baking. Is it OK to use any salt? Kosher?

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about 2 years ago Nicholas Day

Hi dairybrain,

Kosher's perfect. You don't want fine-grained.

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about 2 years ago Nicholas Day

Hi daisybrain,

Kosher's perfect. You don't want fine-grained.

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about 2 years ago CraignKzoo

found this online:

molasses (1 cup barley malt syrup = 2/3 cup molasses) OR rice bran syrup (1 cup barley malt syrup = 4/3 rice bran syrup) OR maple syrup

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about 2 years ago CrewLunch

Is there a substitute for barley malt syrup?