The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Soft Pretzels - Alton Brown Style

Stephmo's picture

Soft Pretzels - Alton Brown Style

I love soft pretzels - who doesn't?  I just never seem to get them outside of fair settings.

And then the other week, Alton Brown did a show on homemade pretzels - it was a sign! So I went to the food network's site and I grabbed the recipe. (

The Ingredients:

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 (note, I simply used Kosher salt)

ALTON: 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.

So Alton's all into proofing the yeast - and I must say that I only do this because the instructions say so.  At some point I'll stop since I'm really only convinced this is a leftover from poor production methods of old - but look, it bubbles:

ALTON: 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.

Now it's all about letting the KitchenAid do the work. I add the melted butter and the flour. You may notice Alton's recipe does specify flour by weight. I actually do have a scale where I can zero out my mixing bowl with ingredients, so I'm able to pour 22 ounces of flour exactly. From here, I let the mixer do it's thing for 5 minutes until the dough is nice and ready:

ALTON: 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.

Rising time. Recipe calls for an hour, but this is fast-acting - in 30 minutes, I'm more than doubled:

ALTON: 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.

I tear my into 8 pieces and lightly oil my counter so I can roll these into ropes and form them into pretzel shapes. I'll admit that it's not as supple as I'm expecting it to be, but that's okay. While I do this, I have water boiling on the stove and the oven preheating:

Hint from me to you - do put in the baking soda before the water is boiling - if you think you see white crusty stuff on the sides of the pot, you do. I added the baking soda while the water was boiling and got a mini-science experiment. Luckily no spillover, but I laughed. I basically boiled each pretzel for 30 seconds and scooped it out with a wire scoop (this gives the pretzel texture):

At this point, I give the pretzels an egg wash and bake them for 13 minutes. Look what I get:

If you're wondering - but is it a chewy, doughy piece of pretzel goodness? Well - take a look at this crumb:

Yes, this is good stuff - I will be making this again!



Floydm's picture

Nice.  Those look great. 

Would you mind if I featured them on the homepage?  Folks love pretzels.

Stephmo's picture

I'd be honored - and when my co-workers ask me Monday if I really baked bread this weekend, I'll be able to go, "funny you should ask...let me show you!"

And you're right - pretzles are loveable.

Frosty's picture

I only tried to make pretzels once a few years ago.  I consider myself a pretty good baker, but believe it or not, they tasted like fish.  I don't get it.  Fish.  My 8 year old daughter still give me a hard time about it.

However, you've inspired me.  I have Alton's recipe for this in my favorites, but have not tried it.  Now I'm going to.

I love the pictures and your comments on the recipe.  Much appreciated.  I hope they turn out good.  But just in case, do you have a good recipe for tartar sauce?  :)


Stephmo's picture

Discouting use of anchovies...

I wonder if a combination of sea salt (if you used that) and an overly waterlogged bath gave the impression of "ocean?"

This was why I only boiled for 30 seconds - and the usage of a strainer was key because it drains like crazy.

If not, I'm pretty basic on the tartar sauce - Hellman's and sweet pickle relish.  You can't go wrong.  :)

nosabe332's picture

is it possible the fish taste is coming from the salt? i've often had pretzel sticks remind me of fish, and after making some pretzels yesterday, my baking pan smelled like fish. i think it's the coarse sea salt i sprinkled.

but to comment on the pretzels, they were delicious. i used the AB recipe and it turns out great. it's surprisingly easy and delicious!

MikeC's picture

Those really turned out well.. good job.  Is that special pretzel salt and if so, where did you get it?  Ooops, I see you just used Kosher Salt.  Tell me, if you let these sit a day (I know, not very likely) does the Kosher Salt just disintegrate?


Stephmo's picture

So I couldn't eat them all in one day!  When I did the egg wash, I sprinkled them liberally with the kosher salt so it all baked at once - they're sill stuck with salt!  I was pretty liberal with the egg wash - it's amazing how far 1 egg yolk with a little water will go.

The salt has gone a bit soft but it's very recognizable, but then again, I never let a fair pretzel sit overnight, so I don't know if those crystals would go soft either...

ehanner's picture


This was my first stab at Pretzels and my wife who loves them is smiling from ear to ear. The handling is an acquired skill I see, but they taste good anyway. Thanks for posting this and for such a nice job of making it clear what to do. Now I just need to figure out how make them look like a heart.


Stephmo's picture

When it comes from the heart.  :)


Glad that they were good and everyone is happy.  Really, I think the only trick to the heart is getting length on your dough rope. 

Secret from me to you - I took pictures of the good looking ones - the sort of mutant ones (which tasted just as good mind you!) are off camera a bit.  ;)

irfan11's picture

Thanks for sharing this recipe, it was very easy and a family favorite...

Maverick's picture

I am brand new, and this is my first post.

I have wanted to try this recipe out for a while now. I remember seeing the episode and thinking how much my daughter (as well as my wife and myself) would like those. I don't have a stand mixer, but I do have a food processor. So I might try it with that. I do have a few comments that may be helpful (or not):

1. You can read the transcript here. There is also the video embedded (first half on top, second half in the middle).

2. For shaping (see the last couple minutes of the first video at that site) AB actually flattens the individual dough pieces a little first, then rolls it up like a jelly roll before finishing rolling it into rods. This, and a little water on the hand, seems to help get the right shape. He weighs them out to 4.5 ounces and rolls it to 24 inches (2 feet).

3. I think the proofing is done because he calls for active dry yeast. Instant yeast does not need this step. You actually need less instant yeast to do the same work (about half or just a bit over that) of active dry yeast. This is why Stephmo had a short rise time.

I think I will make these next week when my scale arrives. I have another recipe for soft pretzels I would like to try as well, so I don't know which to try.

Stephmo's picture

For all the extra info.

I know what you're saying on the yeast.  :)  I'm just a compulsive instruction follower.  I can't help it...


Maverick's picture

I know what you mean. Especially the first time you do anything, it is always good to do it the way the author says. In truth, you are right that 'proofing' is antiquated for dry yeast. But Active Dry still likes to be hydrated. So if using active dry (why anyone does is beyond me), I think putting it in the water for a few minutes before adding to the final dough is a good idea. You do not need the sugar in the water, but I suppose if you are going through the trouble I can see why one would.

edit to say your crumb looks yummy.

Janknitz's picture

Made these this weekend with my kids.  I was blown away at how nice this dough was to work with. 

I don't have a proper scale, so I usually measure by volume, but "just this once" I decided to measure the flour by weight.  It was a bit of a challenge since my scale--which my husband uses for weighing out hops for homebrew--maxes out at 10 ounces.  I used a paper lunch bag and measured 10 ounces twice plus two ounces, a bit of a PITA.  But I've never had a dough that was exactly right as measured--the dough came right together at the perfect consistency.  And it was a dream to work with.  Now I want a good baker's scale!

I used regular yeast, not instant, and the dough was very active and puffy, even though I forgot to increase the amount. I sort of lost the pretzel shape in the rise, but they still tasted wonderful. 

At first I was skeptical about the amount of baking soda in the water.  Most recipes use a teaspoon or two, but I checked three places and AB does indeed use 2/3 of a CUP.  It worked fine. 

My only problem was that it was hard to see how much salt I was putting on (Diamond Kosher salt) and I didn't put enough.  But when you buy pretzels at a stand, they dampen the pretzel slightly with a  dedicated sponge and dip it in salt, so we did that after.  Worked fine with some crushed sea salt I found in the back of my baking shelf. 

I also sprinkled cinammon sugar on some  before baking, BUT the sugar had a tendency to burn in the hot oven--I need a better cinammon sugar delivery system.  The cinammon pretzels still tasted OK, but could have been better. 

It was a fun activity and my 8 year old is enjoying learning about yeast farts, fungi, and dough elasticity. 

Maverick's picture

May I ask what you mean by regular yeast? Do you mean baker's yeast?

I just bought a scale. They are inexpensive. I got the My Weigh 7001DX in case  you are wondering. It arrived today... tomorrow I hope to start using it.

Janknitz's picture

Unfortunately, my husband "retired" from homebrewing a few years ago--but the scale remains.  He's in the wine industry and time and effort just got to be too much with everything else going on.  I prefer beer to wine, so I miss it sometimes.  I always loved the smell of brewing beer, but not the mess!

I'm looking forward to getting a nice electronic scale with a tare function (there's a very reasonably priced model on Breadtopia) but it's not in the budget at the moment.  I'm going to ask for it for my birthday in November. 

Stephmo's picture

I will say that my scale (with tare function and all) was a quickie purchase at either WalMart or Target for under $20.  Digital and all - grams and ounces.  If I had a huge complaint about it, the "bowl" of it is square plastic, but I pretty much just use the container I'm going to mix in and zero weight it...

It's served me well.  :)

estrogenbrigade's picture

I love this recipe, but my dough comes out softer than it's supposed to. I'm not weighing the flour Alton-style...I measure the King Arthur method-loosen up the flour in the container and sprinkle it into the measuring cups. Every time, I go a bit heavier on the flour...almost there, though. A bit harder to work with softer dough, but yummy anyhoo. I actually like them soft...I use them for sandwich rolls...thought I was onto a new creation until I walked past a Blimpie's ad and they're serving sandwiches on pretzel bread.