What's your favorite thing about going to the mall? If you're like the Cook editors at The Daily Meal, it's probably not the stores or the sightings of Santa around Christmastime, but that sweet, baked, buttery aroma wafting through the air that can only come from one place: Auntie Anne's Pretzels.
There's no mistaking that smell, and many can agree that there's nothing better… except maybe the taste of an Auntie Anne's pretzel. These pretzels have been charming their way into Americans' hearts since 1988, when founders Anne and Jonas Beiler developed the recipe for a farmers' market they purchased in Lancaster, Pa. Today, the same recipe is used at all Auntie Anne's locations, ensuring that the unique and popular taste that made it such a hit more than 20 years ago will be in every bite of your pretzel.
Whether in an airport, train station, or a highway rest stop, an Auntie Anne's pretzel serves as a quick bite for someone on the go, and as Melanie Auxer, VP of food science and technology at Auntie Anne's, puts it, "It's not that bad for you." Containing 340 calories and 5 grams of fat, an Auntie Anne's pretzel is one of the healthier options available to someone who needs to satiate their hunger in an easy and fast way.
The pretzel, and the rest of the Auntie Anne's products that have been developed since, can be enjoyed in more than 1,200 stores in 46 states in the U.S., and in 23 countries around the world. Traveling in Singapore? Try Auntie Anne's seaweed-infused pretzel. And if you happen to be in the U.K., you can't miss their banana variety. To sum it up, the popularity of an Auntie Anne's pretzel is due to its perfect storm of appealing qualities: unique taste, accessibility, and low in fat. Oh and did we mention accountability? Because no matter what Auntie Anne's location you're at in the world, you're guaranteed to see the employees mixing, rolling, and baking the original recipe by hand right in front of your very own eyes.
Auntie Anne's pretzels are pretty special things, and we mean no disrespect, but there was one part about the company's motto that had our brains churning: the Perfect Pretzel Guarantee. Auntie Anne's guarantees that you'll like your pretzel every single time, even if means leaving out ingredients like butter or salt, or sending it back for another one. We like the promise of a perfect pretzel, so much so that we decided to develop our own Auntie Anne's recipe for us to make at home. Now that perfect pretzel can not only be found in the mall or supermarket, but fresh and hot out of the oven in the comfort of our own homes.
A lot of our recipe was based off intuition and common knowledge of a pretzel recipe, but there were some parts that were taken directly from Auntie Anne's method. Take, for example, their "secret ingredient," which Auxer describes as something that was accidentally added to the recipe - we guessed sugar. The recipes on their site gave us some pointers as well, like how to mold the perfect pretzel and what gives it that extra crunch. In the end, we think our recipe makes it possible to enjoy that buttery, sweet aroma right in your own home, giving you that perfect pretzel, every time.
The Secret Ingredient
Remember that secret we talked about? Like we said, we guessed sugar, which is why we added confectioners' sugar to our dough.
Along with the confectioners' sugar, we added the essential ingredients for baking a pretzel. To give our pretzels that moist, fluffy dough, we used a little bit of cake flour because of its glutinous qualities, milk to give the dough a silky texture, and butter for richness in flavor. We also had baking soda in our ingredients, but this was left out of the dough and used later.
Let It Rise
After kneading the dough together for about eight to 10 minutes, we let it rise at room temperature for at least one hour, or until it doubled in size.
Another everlasting quality of the Auntie Anne's pretzel is its thin, crunchy loops. To get the same circumference, we rolled our pretzel dough really, really thin, about the width of our fingers.
Pretzels look like pretty elaborate specimens, but it all starts with a U. Thanks to Auntie Anne's detailed instructions, we saw that twisting a pretzel together is as easy as tying a shoe. Twist, cross, and fold under.
The Baking Soda
This is where we use the baking soda. After dissolving it in lukewarm water, we dipped each of our pretzels in the mixture before laying them out onto an oiled baking sheet. Why, you ask? Because it's what gives an Auntie Anne's pretzel that distinct, irreplaceable crust.
A Pretzel's Best Friend
The finishing touch to an Auntie Anne's pretzel is the crunchy sea salt. Feel free to omit this part, because so many of us do, and you'll lose 2 grams of fat and about 500 milligrams of sodium.
Another obvious component of the Auntie Anne's pretzel is its shiny, silk coat from the butter. Auxer told us that as the Auntie Anne's pretzel became more and more popular, so did their signature "sweet butter," which was specifically developed for their pretzel. To keep it simple, we added just a pinch more of confectioners' sugar to the butter to sweeten it up.
The Perfect Pretzel - Auntie Anne's Pretzel Recipe
- Anne Dolce, The Daily Meal
After a few tries (read: how thin to roll the dough), we finally felt like we perfected the Auntie Anne's recipe. There was something different about enjoying them at home on our couch instead of a busy and bustling mall, but we didn't hate it.
1 1/2 cups milk
1 package dry active yeast
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, plus a pinch or two more
8 tablespoons butter, melted and divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups very hot water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse sea salt
In a large, non-reactive bowl, heat the milk in the microwave until lukewarm, about 110 degrees. Add the yeast, stir, and let it activate, about 3 minutes. Next add the confectioners' sugar and 4 tablespoons of the butter and stir to combine.
Sift together the salt, bread flour, and all-purpose flour. Add to the yeast mixture and knead for about 8-10 minutes, using either the hook attachment of a stand mixer or your hands. Add the dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, moist environment until double in size, about 1 hour.
After the dough has risen, divide it into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion out into a long, thin rope, as thin as your fingers. To form the pretzel, start by making the rope a U. Cross the ends of the rope and twist to make a large circle (about as large as you want your pretzel). Take the ends and fold down into the circle, and seal the ends into the bottom to form a pretzel.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Dissolve the baking soda into the very hot water and oil 2 baking sheets. Take each pretzel and dip it into the baking soda-water bath and then place, seam side down, onto the oiled baking sheets, about 6 to each sheet. Sprinkle each pretzel with coarse sea salt and bake in the oven until golden brown and puffy, about 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking.
While the pretzels are baking, melt the last 4 tablespoons of butter. Add a pinch or 2 of the confectioners' sugar to the butter and stir. Dip the salted side of each pretzel into the butter when they're done baking and serve.
- Anne Dolce, The Daily Meal
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