Homemade soft pretzels are irresistible—the aroma alone will have everyone flocking to the kitchen. A soft crust with a bit of chewiness, a fluffy interior, and a sprinkle of salt make these disappear fast.
Pretzels are one of the world’s oldest snacks. Great-grandfather Herman ate them in Germany as a boy and here in America as an adult. It was natural that they would find their way into the Berghoff bar. Traditionally, shaped pretzel dough is briefly boiled in water, just like bagels, before being baked. This brief boiling gives both pretzels and bagels shiny crusts and a very chewy texture. I omitted the step of boiling the shaped dough when I developed our pretzel recipe for the home kitchen, so this pretzel is easy to shape and bake. It has a nice soft crust, easy to bite, easy to chew. The pretzel is best baked and eaten on the same day. Pretzels are fun for kids and grown-ups alike to shape. We recommend eating these pretzels with any Berghoff beer or a frosty mug of Berghoff Root Beer.–Carlyn Berghoff and Nancy Ross Ryan
☞ Table of Contents
Homemade Soft Pretzels
- 4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for kneading
- One (1/4-ounce package or 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz) unsalted butter melted
- 1 large egg yolk lightly beaten
- 1 large egg white well beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel (coarse) salt as needed
Prepare the oven
- Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C) Do not use a convection oven for this recipe.
Make the pretzel dough in a mixer
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt, and stir to mix; add the water, butter, and egg yolk, and mix on low until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead the dough at the lowest speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, adding some or all of the remaining flour as needed. Cover with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Make the pretzel dough by hand
- In a 4-quart bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt, and whisk to mix; add the water, butter, and egg yolk and, using a large spoon, stir until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.
- Remove the spoon and, using your hands, knead the dough right in the bowl until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, adding some or all of the remaining flour as needed. Cover with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Make the pretzel dough in a food processor
- In the work bowl of a large-capacity (14-cup) food processor fitted with the plastic dough blade, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt, and pulse to mix. Add the water, butter, and egg yolk, and pulse until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl and forms a cohesive mass. Add additional flour as needed through the feed tube.
Shape the pretzels
- Turn out the pretzel dough on a lightly floured board and knead briefly, about 1 minute. Cut the dough into twelve equal-size pieces. Roll out each dough piece into a 24-inch-long rope. Make a U shape with the rope. Holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press the ends down onto the bottom of the U to seal, forming a “pretzel shape.” For small pretzels, cut the dough into 24 equal-size pieces. Roll out each dough piece into a 12-inch-long rope and shape the pretzels as directed.
- Gently place each pretzel on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet (two pans). Brush the tops lightly with the egg white mixture. Sprinkle each pretzel with 1/2 teaspoon of coarse salt, or to taste. Bake in the preheated oven for 14 to 16 minutes, or until the pretzels are browned and firm. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Originally published October 06, 2009.
What variations can I make to a pretzel recipe?Cheese Pretzels
Add 2 cups (8 ounces) of grated white Cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients and proceed with the recipe. Or add 1 cup (4 ounces) of grated Parmesan cheese to the flour and proceed with the recipe, then sprinkle a second cup of grated Parmesan (4 ounces) on the egg white–brushed pretzels before baking. Caraway Pretzels
Add 4 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the flour and proceed with the recipe. Top the pretzels with 1/2 cup of coarse salt before baking. Bacon Pretzels
Add 1/2 cup of bacon bits (from a jar or package) to the flour and proceed with the recipe. Sprinkle the pretzels with kosher salt as needed and 1/4 cup of bacon bits before baking. Chocolate Chip Pretzels
Increase the butter to 1/2 cup and the sugar to 1/3 cup, and prepare the dough according to the recipe. Add 1 cup of chocolate chips to the finished dough, kneading only long enough to incorporate the chips. Dust the baked pretzels with 1 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Cinnamon-Raisin Pretzels
Increase the butter to 1/2 cup and the sugar to 1/2 cup, and add 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon. Prepare the dough according to the recipe. Add 1/2 cup of dark raisins to the finished dough, kneading only long enough to incorporate. Dust the baked pretzels well with 1 1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar. Mini-Pretzels
Make half-size versions of any of the above by dividing the dough into 24 equal-size pieces and rolling into 12-inch-long ropes. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe as directed.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Even though the pretzels were best slightly warm, they were still quite good the next day— still soft but a bit chewier. They took a little coaxing to roll them into ropes but once that was accomplished, by using a little more flour on our hands and working the surface, they were very easily shaped, even by our 10-year-old helper. The baking time was right on the money with this recipe, and the pretzels were nicely browned at exactly 14 minutes.
These fresh-baked pretzels are delicious and fun to make. When following the instructions, the resulting dough is so soft—the phrase “like a baby’s bottom” may be appropriate. It’s not at all sticky and therefore highly pliable, able to conform to any shape.
Once baked, the pretzels maintain their softness and are wonderfully chewy, even fluffy. A little salt makes them delectable, though they’re improved by any of the recommended variation ingredients, especially bacon. After all, bacon makes everything better. I highly recommend this recipe if you’re craving soft pretzels.
Originally published October 6, 2009