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Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Tale of Two Pretzels - Part 2 - We Have a Winner

Second Up - Sigmund Pretzels

You'll Need:

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F)
2 Tb active dry yeast
3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
6 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
4 tablespoons coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

Getting Started:

In a medium bowl, mix together 2 cups warm water and yeast.  Add 1/2 cup brown sugar; let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together flour and coarse salt using your hands.

Add butter and continue to mix with your hands until mixture is crumbly.

Add yeast mixture and, using your hands, mix until a shaggy dough is formed and water is absorbed.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is tight, elastic, and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes.

Clean mixing bowl and return dough to the bowl.*  Cover dough with plastic wrap and transfer to refrigerator; let chill at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

*The original recipe didn't specify whether or not the bowl should be oiled.

Day 2:

You'll Need:

Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup pale ale-style beer
Pretzel salt

Getting Started:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Roll dough out into a 14-by-12-inch rectangle.  My dough came out of the refrigerator in a hulking, heavy, air-filled mass.  Press into the dough with the rolling pin and it'll get moving.  Mine ended up very pliable and stretchy after rolling.

Cut dough into one dozen 12-inch-long strips, each about 1-inch wide.

Transfer to a large baking sheet and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Place in the refrigerator and let chill for 15 minutes.

Now You're Cookin':

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out each piece with your hands into a 36-inch-long rope (about 3/4-inch thick), starting from the center and working toward the ends.

Hold up each end to make a "U" shape with the rope and cross the ends over, pinching at the bottom of the "U" to form a pretzel.

Return to baking sheet and repeat process with remaining dough.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and coat lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large saucepan, combine 8 cups water, baking soda, beer, and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar.

Bring the beer mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Simmer pretzels, one at a time, until pretzel floats, about 30 seconds.

Put pretzels on the prepared baking sheet using a spatula making sure to drain off as much excess liquid as possible.

Sprinkle pretzels with pretzel salt - I used kosher.

Place in oven and bake for 5 minutes.

Rotate baking sheet and continue baking until pretzels turn a chestnut brown color, 4 to 6 minutes more.

Remove from baking sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.  Serve warm with butter or mustard.

The Verdict:

In spite of the stiffness of the dough when kneading, the Sigmund pretzel dough was much more smooth, stretchy, pliable, and easy to roll to the desired length than the Alton Brown pretzels.  When shaping the pretzels it was nearly impossible for them to look anything less than perfect because the dough was so uniform and beautiful.  The Sigmund pretzels came out of the oven puffy and chestnut brown but lacked some of the chewiness of the Alton Brown pretzels.  What these pretzels may have lacked in a chewy exterior, they more than made up with in flavor.  Ultimately, the Sigmund pretzels barely edged out the Alton Brown pretzels justifying their lengthier preparation schedule.


  1. Erin, The third time is charm for me. Yes, this third batch of pretzels I have made. The first patch went to the birds and second patch was iffy. This time they were great, and I was more careful in following the directions. I did, however, reduce the amount of salt in the recipe and even topped a couple with cinnamon and sugar. The taste test was enjoyable with the rest of the pale ale. Enjoy your blog.

  2. I feel so rude. I thought I had comment notification on and only just saw your comment. I am so glad you like the blog.. and the pretzels. We're having company in 2 weeks and I think I'll have to make them again for snacks to have around the house. I'm also interested in possibly stuffing them (my brother's vote is for cream cheese and jalapeno).