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.
Soft German Pretzels Recipe
- 1 1/4 cup Warm Water not hot, warm
- 2 tsp. Dried Yeast
- 2 tsp. Brown Sugar
- 2 TBL Bread Flour
- 3 cups Bread Flour
- 2 tsp Salt
For Topping- pick any, or leave bare:
- Pretzel Salt
- Parmesan Cheese
- Smoked Ham Cubes with Cheese
- Pumpkin Seeds
For the Bath:
- 1/4 cup Baking Soda
- 10 cup Water
- Read all the instructions first so you are clear about the steps. It IS a bit of work for 8 pretzels, but there is no comparison to the ones you find in the Freezer section of the grocery store.
For the Baking Soda Bath:
- Before you start the dough (in fact, you can do this a day or two in advance) bake 1/4 cup of baking soda in a baking dish (non-metallic) at 250 degrees for 1 hour. Set aside... You can make more and store the extra in an airtight jar.
For the Pretzels:
- Add 2 tsp dried yeast to 1 1/4 cup warm (not hot... WARM) water.
- Add 2 tsp brown sugar and 2 TBL Bread Flour... stir to combine
- Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Combine 3 cups of bread flour and 2 tsp salt (I used Kosher salt) in the bowl of a mixer.
- When the water/yeast mix is all bubbly looking, add it to the flour/salt in the mixer, then mix on low until the dough is combined and comes togther.
- Now, knead the dough by hand, or with a dough hook in your mixer, for 10 minutes. (I ended up doing a combination... 5 minutes in the mixer, 3-4 minutes by hand, then a few more in the mixer)
- Take it out, and knead/shape into a ball.
- Put a bit of oil at the bottom of a medium mixing bowl. Drop the dough ball in, then flip it over (this coats the whole ball). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then place in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.
While this is happening, set up your station:
- Cover 2 cookie sheets with Parchment Paper
- Sprinkle an area on the counter with a bit of bread flour... or sprinkle a large baking sheet with bread flour ( I will explain in a moment)
- When the dough has doubled in size, remove from the bowl, and cut to 8 pieces.
- Be patient when shaping the dough, it doesn't always go how you want it to. Start with rolling and stretching each piece to a longish strand. At first the dough will want to spring back to a ball... just stretch it a bit, and set it on the cookie sheet/ counter to rest a bit.. work on the other pieces. Now go back and stretch a bit more... then a bit more...
- When you have 8 16-19 inch strands, do the fancy pretzel knot twist. (Hold the ends, then give a twist so the U part spins, then flip over and Voila!) I will attach a photo...
- Put the 8 Pretzel shapes on the parchment covered baking sheets.
- Let rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a non-aluminum pot. Add the Baked Baking Soda.. stir carefully until it dissolves.
- PREHEAT THE OVEN to 400 degrees F
- After the pretzels have risen again, carefully lower them in to the water 2 at a time (more if more fit without crowding at the surface)
- Boil 30 seconds, then flip and boil 30 seconds more.
- Lift out of the water with a spatula... and set back on the parchment. (nice side up)
- Repeat with other pretzels.
- Let rest for 5 minutes.
- (Is the oven hot?)
- Sprinkle your toppings on the Pretzels...
- I put both trays in the oven at once... bake 10 minutes, then rotate the trays top to bottom, and bake 10 more minutes.
- Take out of the oven, and cool 2 -3 minutes on the baking sheet.
- Remove from baking sheet on to cooling racks.
- Let cool until you can put them into your mouth.
Looking for more German Recipes? Here’s my Easy German Cookbook!
80 Classic German Recipes made simple for the American Kitchen!
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.