While I’ve always known that German Pretzels exist, I had them at Fairs or Karneval and such, it wasn’t until I went to Munich that I discovered just how central Soft German Pretzels are to daily life in Bavaria. This isn’t just Oktoberfest Food… Soft Pretzels are found in the Bread Basket … right along side the Brötchen and Roggenbrot! BAM! An eye opener! You can serve PRETZELS with butter! and maybe some Aufschnitt or Obatzda Beer cheese, and you have a meal instead of mere tasty snack. Still, knowing this, and recreating a German Pretzel Recipe at home sounded difficult, especially since there are some techniques and ingredients that aren’t generally in my wheelhouse.
National Pretzel Day is April 26th
After a lot of recipe testing, I think I’ve got it worked out this soft German Pretzel recipe ticks all the boxes. Soft with a bit of crunch to the crust, chewy, flavorful and great tasting plain or covered in butter! The ONLY thing missing is that mysterious tang that you get from the Lye bath, but even the substitute I used comes close. Honestly, I am too much of a klutz in the kitchen to attempt working with caustic substances (case in point, I made these pretzels with a glove on because I cut myself washing dishes last week and I’m still recovering) (ok, and can I just say, kneading dough with an injury covered by a glove is less than ideal). Also, I really wanted to use a recipe that had ingredients you find in the average kitchen. I did do some research, and found an alternative that comes close. Baked Baking Soda. It sounds nutty, but one German Baker says she BAKES her baking soda for a while and it changes the chemical composition. Hmm. Why not try it? It seems to work ok.
So… whether you are hosting an Oktoberfest gathering, or you just feel like having some delicious fresh German Pretzels at Brotzeit, or you REALLY just want a pretzel… why not give this recipe a try?
Recipe Soft German Pretzels
This recipe makes up 8 decent sized pretzels (about 6 inches across). Double it if you want more. They are best the day you make them, but you can freeze them airtight for up to 2 months. (If you freeze them, let them thaw on the counter IN the container or bag you froze them in… then maybe pop the THAWED pretzels into a 350 oven for 3 or 4 minutes)
I made these pretzels so often, we ran out of Pretzel Salt. Luckily, you can do as I did… sprinkle on cheese before baking, or better yet, sprinkle with cheese and cubes of smoked ham. Swoon. We also tried Pumpkin Seeds (hey, it’s great for Brötchen). Some people swear by cinnamon sugar…. clearly, there are a lot of ways to go with Pretzels.
Baked Baking Soda
If you prefer making your pretzels with Lye, please, go right ahead. I just didn’t feel comfortable, and really didn’t want to buy another ingredient that wouldn’t get used up for my kitchen. After researching a bit, I read about a Baker who uses BAKED Baking Soda. Sounds odd, but it’s actually a thing. Turns out, when you bake baking soda, you change its chemical composition to Sodium Carbonate, which is used as a cleaning ingredient… and can be toxic if you just decide to spoon it straight to your mouth (please don’t). Basically… you end up with a chemically basic white powder that is water soluable… so it dissolves in boiling water. The basic quality is what transforms the crust of the pretzel!
Spread 1/4 cup of Baking Soda in a baking dish (non-metallic). Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Set aside until cool.
Now it’s ready to use.
(You can make more and store the extra in an airtight jar.)
For the recipe, I found 10 cups of water to 1/4 cup of Baked Baking Soda or Sodium Carbonate, is perfect.
You can make more than just 1/4 cup at a time. It stores well in an airtight jar. Please LABEL it, so no one accidentally sprinkles it on cookies.
Need Pretzel Salt?
How to make German Pretzels
Start the Yeast with Warm Water, dry Yeast, Brown Sugar and Bread Flour
Knead the Dough 10 Minutes, then Set aside in a Bowl to Rise 1 Hour
Divide Dough into 8 Pieces
Pull/Roll the Pieces into Strands… you may have to do this a few times, slowly, to get the right length.
Twist to Pretzel Shape then let rise 30 minutes
Bring Water and Baked Baking Soda to a Boil… Carefully lower your twisted pretzels into the bath. Boil on each side for 30 seconds
Let sit 5 minutes after boiling, then sprinkle with topping of your choice
Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Then Rotate and bake 10 minutes more.
Finish Cooling on a Rack
EAT! (Best on day they are made…. and SUPER when still Warm)
How to Twist a Pretzel
Now, his pretzels are a lot bigger than mine (and clearly more professional… ) but you can see how it works.