Finding The Perfect Soft Pretzel

January 12, 2015

I’m a fanatic about two things in life: champagne and soft pretzels. Today I’m going to talk about soft pretzels.

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 7.56.18 AMIf you do not appreciate the smooth, salty butteriness that embodies the making of the soft pretzel, I suggest you stop reading now before I bore you to tears.

Soft pretzels are the perfect savory snack because they can be enjoyed on their own, or can be dunked into a plethora of dipping options. My favorite dipping options are nacho cheese (the really-bad-for-you, processed kind) and tomato soup.

Over the years, I’ve developed criteria for identifying a quality soft pretzel:

  • Softness. Soft pretzels should be soft. Not dry or doughy.
  • Saltiness. The perfect pretzel should have at least two kosher salt grains for every bite. The dough should also have some natural saltiness to it.
  • Shape/size. I certainly appreciate the wrapped shape of the standard pretzel originated by German monks in the Middle Ages, but I’ve found that some of my favorite soft pretzels come in more of a stick shape. When it comes to size, bigger is better, unless it produces a drier, soft pretzel, which has been my experience with jumbo-sized soft pretzels.
  • Dipping options. While I try to let dipping sauces cloud my judgment, I cannot overlook the fact that a good cheese sauce can compensate for flaws in a soft pretzel.

Based on my criteria, I’m going to share my recommendations for your next soft-pretzel craving. All of these locations, in my opinion, offer a perfect soft pretzel.

McCoy’s

Hands down, McCoy’s has the best soft pretzels I’ve ever tasted. If you prefer your soft pretzels extra-buttery, these are the treats for you. And it must be fate that this restaurant would create such a perfect pretzel, because it’s also down the street from my apartment.

Kieran’s

Kieran’s soft pretzels are rather standard pub pretzels — a nice level of softness and moderate salt usage — but what sets these delightful snacks apart is the cheese fondue dipping sauce. I highly recommend asking to sub out the mustard dipping sauce for an additional cup of cheese.

Auntie Annie’s

In Minnesota, we’re blessed to have malls galore, and in any mall you’ll find an Auntie Annie’s. These pretzels are by no means gourmet, but they are so good. I appreciate Auntie Annie pretzels for their softness (it’s really the perfect level of doughiness), and whatever “butter” substance they use on the pretzels works for me.

In addition to trying soft pretzel options from dining establishments across the metro, I’ve also tried my hand at making them from scratch. Homemade soft pretzels are actually very easy to make!

This recipe from The Kitchn describes in detail (with pictures) how to make homemade soft pretzels.

And if you want to get a little fancy, try this recipe (the rosemary is a great add!) from the blog Two Peas & Their Pod.