AUNTIE ANNE’S PRETZELS

Even though dough is usually made up of just a handful of ingredients, knocking off the exact texture and taste of a well-known doughy product such as this is one of trickiest tasks in food hacking. Each small variation in the formula has a profound effect on the workability of the dough and the eventual texture of the bite. What kind of flour and yeast should be used? How long to knead the dough? Should the dough rise at room temperature, or in the refrigerator, and for how long? These are just a few of the many questions that must be answered to achieve a perfect clone, and in the weeks that I spent making this recipe over and over, I have come to some far-tastier conclusions than in my first hack of this recipe.

Among the many changes are the addition of some bread flour to add more chewiness to the pretzel, and brown sugar to contribute a slight molasses flavor that was missing from my previous version. The baking soda bath formula here gives the pretzel a better color, the cooking temp has been adjusted, and the cinnamon sugar has now been perfected. Put it all together, with several other tweaks, and you will now produce some of the best homemade pretzels you’ll ever eat. If you want to make your pretzels as authentic as they can be, snag some real pretzel salt online or in a specialty store. It makes a much better finished product than the kosher salt I mention as an alternative. The recipe here makes original salted pretzels and the popular cinnamon sugar pretzels just like those from Auntie Anne’s.

DOUGH
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1¼ cups warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
¼ teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
12 ounces (2¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour
5 ounces (1 cup) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt


BATH
½ cup baking soda
3 cups water
Pretzel salt (or kosher salt)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted


CINNAMON SUGAR
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Cooking method

1-Dissolve the brown sugar in the warm water. Add the yeast and mix until dissolved.

2-In a separate large bowl combine the flours and salt. Pour in the yeast/sugar mixture and mix with a stand mixer on low until the dough forms a ball, or combine with a mixing spoon, then use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball. Knead with a stand mixer or by hand for 5 minutes, then cover the dough in a bowl with a towel for 2 hours.

3-After 2 hours, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, and make the bath by stirring the baking soda into the water in a medium bowl.

4-Spray a little nonstick cooking spray onto a smooth rolling surface. Place the dough there and then divide it into 6 portions that weigh 4½ ounces each.

5-Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll the dough into a rope that is approximately 36 inches long. Bring both ends up to form a “U,” then twist the ends all the way around once and press the ends (the “feet”) down onto the bottom of the pretzel.

6-Hold the pretzel where the feet are attached and dip it into the water bath, then blot the bottom briefly on a towel to remove the excess liquid. Place the pretzel onto a parchment paper–lined baking sheet and sprinkle with pretzel salt, unless you are making cinnamon-sugar pretzels. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.

7-Bake the pretzels for 5 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 5 to 7 more minutes or until nicely browned.

8-When the pretzels come out of the oven, transfer them to a plate or a screen and brush them with the melted butter. Sprinkle a little more salt onto the salted pretzels.

9-If you are making the cinnamon-sugar pretzels, combine the sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl and spoon the cinnamon-sugar over the buttered (but not salted) pretzels until well-coated on both sides.

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