Baked Sunday Mornings: Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

I was pretty excited about this week's Baked Sunday Mornings assignment, "Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels." I have been known to stop by Auntie Anne's in the mall or at the airport to pick up a pretzel; I usually get an original with salt, or an almond pretzel. I had never contemplated making my own soft pretzels at home.

I was surprised that the recipe was not difficult. You rub some butter into a mixture of flour (half bread flour, half whole-wheat flour) and salt, and combine it with yeast that has been activated with warm water and honey. After in few minutes in the mixer with a dough hook, you have a elastic dough. You let the dough rise for an hour until it doubles, after which you divide it into pieces and form each piece into a rope and the classic pretzel shape. You let the formed pretzels rest for a bit, briefly boil them in water and baking soda, and bake. After you take the pretzels out of the oven, you brush them with melted butter and sprinkle on a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

The first time I made the pretzels, they were terrible. While they looked gorgeous, the taste and texture was just awful. After considering what could have gone wrong, I checked my whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur white whole wheat), and I realized that it had an off smell and had gone bad. I keep a lot of different flours on hand, but whole wheat is the type I use least often. Even though I store it in the freezer, it takes me a long time -- sometimes too long -- to get through a five-pound bag.

I bought a fresh bag of flour and needless to say, the pretzels made with non-rancid flour were a tremendous improvement. I also made some salted pretzels (one of the variations suggested in the cookbook) by brushing the boiled pretzels with egg yolk and sprinkling on fleur de sel before baking. All of the pretzels were a deep golden brown and looked scrumptious.

The cinnamon-sugar pretzels were okay, but (and I can't believe I'm saying this) they weren't as good as the ones at the mall. I think that boiling the pretzels for a total of two minutes each was probably too long. Other soft pretzel recipes I've found have a shorter boiling time, and some of my pretzels were a little soggy after the boiling. In addition, the pretzels seemed to have taken on too much baking soda flavor, and the crust had an excessive bitterness/sourness that was not harmonious with the cinnamon and sugar. In fact, I thought that the salted version of the pretzels was better. When it comes to yeasted cinnamon-sugar breads, I think that the Monkey Bread from Baked Explorations is far superior.

Recipe: "Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. Recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.


Susan said…
Wow - what a disappointment, but good for you for sticking with it and making another batch. It looks like your persistence paid off. Thanks for the tip on the Monkey Bread - I haven't tried that one yet.

I skipped the pretzel & made Carrot Coconut Scones instead since the group made them before I started.
margot said…
Your pretzels look lovely. I had an issue with an old product as well: my first packet of yeast didn't bubble, so I had to start over (luckily it was early in the recipe).

I fully agree: the Monkey Bubble Bread from Baked Explorations is absolutely divine.
Louise said…
I've been making soft pretzels and pretzel rolls for at least 20 years. 2 minutes is way too long of a boil -- even pretzel rolls are only 30 seconds per side. If you make these again as just the salted version, try adding a little celery seed to the dough as it gives them a real soft pretzel taste.
Dafna said…
Sounds like we had some similar experiences! I too was wondering about the boiling time, though supposedly the longer you bake them, the more of a crust the pretzels will have. I made a few pretzel "bites" and they were pretty bitter, so perhaps that's the reason.

I don't think we can expect these to necessarily be comparable to Auntie Anne's-- they probably have special equipment, AND I'm sure they don't use totally natural ingredients either... which I don't want to know about because they're so delicious!! :)
Sheri said…
Mine tasted like baking soda! I was tempted to make a second batch but ran out of time. I admit, I love those mall pretzels too. I'm sure it's the liberal amount of butter they slather on top.

That monkey bubble bread was probably my favorite recipe from Explorations.
Awwe!!! It looks yummy..Feel like having one right now. Thanks for sharing.