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Sunday, December 1, 2013

December challenge: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

Anything that starts with "hot buttered" in the description has got to be good, right?  I mean, you've got bread, you've got butter, and you've got salt.  It's hard to go wrong.

I've been a soft pretzel junkie since I can't remember when.  For years, whenever I was in Santa Barbara, I'd go out of my way to visit this little hole-in-the-wall bakery just to buy their soft pretzels.  These things were the best I've ever tasted!  Bavarian style, they were fat and soft in the middle, while the arms were thin and chewy.  I'd buy a half dozen, which lasted me only a couple days.  (It was the most I thought I could get away with before they'd lose their remarkable texture and flavor.  I limited myself to eating only two a day.)  Then one day I stopped by and found the shop gone.  I don't know what happened to them.  I didn't know the name, so I couldn't even look them up to see if they'd simply moved.  I've searched Santa Barbara bakeries since then but to no avail.  Those amazing pretzels are gone forever.

I never even thought about making my own at home. I thought there was a big, complicated process involved -- the shaping, the boiling vats of toxic fluid, the special salt...  Besides, I was getting to an age when I really couldn't afford to be eating large wads of white dough.

Consequently, I approached this month's challenge with a little trepidation.  The recipe sounded pretty easy, and it turned out to be just that.  I suppose the only question was exactly what texture the dough should be.  The recipe called for it to be "soft, smooth, and quite slack."  It was a very dry day here, and I'd used part whole wheat flour, so I found myself adding more and more water as I kneaded, the dough seeming to be drying out before my eyes.

Fun with bread ropes!

In the end, perhaps my dough was a little too slack, because the pretzels were very flat on the bottom.  But the dough was easy to work with and the pretzel knots came together nicely.  I made them Bavarian style like the ones I used to buy -- fat in the middle and skinny (well, I tried) on the arms.  (The arms on these aren't nearly as thin as I was aiming for.)  The baked pretzels were about 5" across.

With luck, the fat middles will break open a little during baking.

I wasn't happy with the whole wheat addition.   In most baked products I don't even notice a difference, but it was very detectable in these.  Soft pretzels need to be plain white flour.  There's no getting around it.  They also lacked the smooth, shiny exterior that a pretzel should have.  Still, the texture and flavor was good.

Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside.

Conclusion:  These were very easy and very good, but I'll have to keep up the search for the ultimate soft pretzel.  If I weren't on a quest, I would stick with this recipe, as there really is nothing bad about it.  But next time, regardless of the recipe, I'll make them larger around so I can get those arms thinner!

Recipe:  Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels via King Arthur Flour


  1. I love the color of your pretzels. Mine were a bit pale. I too subbed some WW flour for the white flour. Not sure I'm a fan of this recipe... maybe like you said, these need to be made with 100% white flour.
    Btw, did you get the ABC badge I emailed you?

    1. I did, but I can't figure out how to add it.

  2. Agree with you that the pretzels were very easy to make. They look good. What a lovely color. Try them with all purpose flour next time, you might like them better.

  3. Wow! What gorgeous colour! I wondered about the effects of adding whole wheat flour...I'm no longer tempted to try it.

  4. These look fantastic, the colour is really what I think is perfect for a pretzels,

  5. It's so funny how Americans like pretzels. In Germany - the homeland - they are more a regional specialty in the South, not too many people eat them elsewhere often. For me they are something to be consumed in a Biergarten in Munich, together with Weisswurst, sweet mustard and wheat beer.