Are you ready for some homemade soft pretzels, friends? That’s what I thought. Bread pretzels are the best!
These are the pretzels I used to make at the restaurant almost every day. It’s a very versatile recipe. You can even turn them into pretzel buns.
Serve them with this fantastic beer cheese sauce for pretzels or use your favorite mustard or other dip.
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Why Make This Recipe
This is the recipe I made many, many times, day after day, at a restaurant. It is loved by A Very Lot of people, including me!
The recipe makes an even dozen bread pretzels, and you can also scale it up to make as many as 48 if your mixer is large enough.
The pretzels bake up with a thin, crackly crust and the perfect pretzel crumb–somehow dense and fluffy at the same time.
The instructions are easy to follow–you basically just toss all the ingredients into your mixer and let it do all the work.
After a bulk rise (all the dough rising at once before scaling it into portions or shaping it), you make twelve ropes of dough, give them the traditional pretzel twist, and then freeze them.
Here’s a pro tip for you:
Freeze your pretzels right after shaping them. You can drop them into the boiling water bath straight from the freezer and move them to your baking pan/s before they thaw all the way. This helps them hold their shape so you don’t have to reform them on the pan. Works every time!
How to Make Soft Pretzels
Traditionally, soft pretzels get a bath in lye water. The high pH of the lye bath is what gives the pretzels their distinct dark color and thin, shiny crust.
These days, most home bakers use a dip in boiling water with baking soda in it. Baking soda still has a relatively high pH but not so high as to be caustic and cause burns.
Here’s what you’ll need to make soft pretzels:
- water: You’ll need water for the dough, for the boiling water bath, plus a little bit to add to your egg wash
- melted butter: Tenderizes the pretzels just a bit and helps to carry flavor. You can substitute vegetable oil if you prefer, but your pretzels will have less flavor
- malt syrup: This is the traditional addition that lends to the authentic taste of these pretzels. If you do not have malt syrup or do not want to purchase it, you can substitute dark corn syrup or even honey
- kosher salt: Regulates the growth of yeast and adds flavor to the dough
- all-purpose flour: provides the bulk of the recipe and enough gluten to make these pretzels nice and chewy. You may substitute bread flour, although you may need to add a touch more water since higher gluten flours are thirstier than lower gluten flours
- active dry yeast: you can substitute instant yeast in the same amount. As long as you know your yeast is alive, there is no need to proof it. You can just add it in with all the rest of the ingredients.
- baking soda: Used in the boiling water bath to raise the pH. This results in the signature dark “pretzel color.”
- egg: You’ll beat an egg together with a bit of water to brush onto the pretzels before baking. This also gives the finishing salt something to adhere to
- finishing salt: Use a coarse grained salt here. Pretzel salt is ideal, but you could also do what we did at the restaurant and use sel gris or even Maldon sea salt
In broad strokes, here’s what you’ll do to make your soft pretzel deliciousness:
- Make the dough
- Let the dough rise
- Punch down and shape the pretzels
- Freeze them until hard
- Dip them in the boiling water bath then place them on the pan
- Brush with egg wash, sprinkle on salt (or seeds) of choice
- Bake, let cool slightly, and enjoy.
It may be helpful to watch this video I made showing how to boil the soft pretzels, brush them with egg wash, sprinkle with salt, and then bake.
Equipment You May Need
- I find that using a bench knife and a kitchen scale is my best bet for cutting bread pretzels that will all be the same size. As a bonus, both are useful for tons of kitchen cutting, scraping, and measuring tasks.
- A silicone basting brush makes short work of applying the egg wash.
- Sheet pans are ideal for baking your pretzels. You will be able to get 6 on each half-sheet pan, so ideally, purchase two.
Here are a few tips I learned (some the hard way) over years of making this recipe almost every day:
- Do NOT line your baking pans with parchment. The pretzels will stick to it. Just give each pan a spray with pan spray and you’ll be fine.
- If you want to save your pretzels for baking another day, once they freeze on the sheet pans, feel free to put them all in a zip top freezer bag. They will be fine to boil and bake for up to a month. This is a great make-ahead tip if you want to bake them up for a game day party.
- While the pretzels are best when made fresh, you can reheat them the next day by placing them in a toaster or toaster oven for a couple of minutes.
Bread Pretzel Q & A
Each one is scaled at 3 oz by weight. They are about 5″ tall by 4″ across, give or take, and depending on how you shape them.
Yes. I developed this technique at the restaurant because they hold their shape much better. Even after a dip in boiling water, the centers of the pretzels remain frozen, so the pretzels hold shape as you move them to the prepared pans. Much easier to deal with, especially in a fast-paced environment.
They only need a 45 second to 1-minute dip. Any longer and they will bake up bitter and too dark. Plus, they’ll completely thaw and you’ll have to reshape them. If you’re concerned, err on the side of less time rather than more. A minimum of 30 seconds will work just fine.
Soft pretzels are best eaten the day you make them, preferably fresh from the oven. You can store them in a brown paper bag or covered with a tea towel overnight. For longer storage, freeze them and then reheat in a toaster oven.
For alternate toppings, consider using your favorite spice blends. For example, an Everything Pretzel sounds like a good idea, and it’s as easy as just sprinkling some Everything seasoning on your pretzels before baking.
Other options include sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
However you vary them, do include some coarse salt in the mix, salt and pretzels just go together.
Although, if you need low-salt pretzels, you may certainly bake them without salt sprinkled onto them.
The perfect pairing for soft pretzels is this beer cheese sauce. It is excellent–a little spicy, a lot cheesy, and hard to stop eating.
Aside from cheese sauce, a nice, whole grain mustard is a classic pairing. I really like this Honey Mustard from Lusty Monk.
Or, if you’re feeling very fancy, you can make your own mustard for dipping.
Or go Southern with a combo of pepper jelly and pimento cheese.
If you have questions about this post or recipe, don’t hesitate to get in touch. You can leave a comment on the post and I will get back to you within about 24 hours.
If your question is more urgent, please shoot me an email, and I will respond within 4 hours, unless I’m asleep.
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
Don't let its small price and small size fool you. The Escali Primo is an accurate and easy-to-use food scale that I have used for years. It's easy to store, easy to use, has a tare function, and easily switches between grams and ounces/pounds for accurate measurements.
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- 11-11.25 oz room temperature water, (start with 11 oz and only add a smidge more water if things seem to dry. This dough should be pretty firm though and not at all sticky)
- 2 oz melted butter
- 1/2 oz malt syrup or dark corn syrup
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 22 oz all purpose flour
- 1/4 oz (.25 oz) active dry yeast
- 10 cups water
- 1/2-2/3 cup baking soda, (I use 1/2 cup. Use 2/3 if you'd like your pretzels to be a bit darker once baked.)
- 1 egg plus 1 teaspoon of water for egg wash
- coarse salt of your choosing for finishing
- Put all the ingredients in the order they appear in the recipe into the bowl of your stand mixer. Attach the dough hook and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead for 8 minutes. If after 3-4 minutes the dough seems a bit dry, add the extra 1/4 oz of water, but no more than that. The dough should completely clear the sides and bottom of the bowl. When you're finished kneading, the bowl should almost look like it's clean.
- Once the kneading time is over, the dough should be smooth and soft to touch but fairly firm and not at all sticky.
- Form it into a ball and place it back in the mixer bowl. Spray the top and sides with pan spray, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this could take anywhere from an hour to up to three hours.
- When the dough is nicely risen, turn it out onto a clean work surface and press out all the gases.
- Use a bench knife and your kitchen scale to divide the dough into 3 oz portions.
- So the dough doesn't dry out, place each piece under plastic wrap as you divide it.
- Spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with pan spray and cover the sheets with plastic wrap--this is what you'll use to keep the pretzels from drying out when forming them.
- Roll each portion of dough into a long snake approximately 2 feet long. Bring the ends up and cross them over each other twice and press the ends down into the center of the snake to form a pretzel shape. (Video below.)
- Place each finished pretzels on the pans under the plastic, six per pan.
- Freeze the pretzels for a good hour or an hour and a half until they are solidly frozen.
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F.
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the baking soda and stir to evenly dissolve.
- Bring one sheet of pretzels out of the freezer. Boil 2 pretzels at a time for approximately 45 seconds to 1 minute, until they float and are somewhat puffed. While the pretzels are boiling, Re-spray that part of the sheet pan. Remove pretzels from the water with a slotted spoon or a spider and place back on the tray. Once all the pretzels are boiled, repeat with the second tray of pretzels.
To Finish and Bake
- Brush the pretzels with a thin coating of egg wash and sprinkle liberally with coarse finishing salt. I used sel gris for one tray and a smoked salt for the other. Feel free to use pretzel salt, fleur de sel or your favorite finishing salt--or switch things up and use sesame seeds or poppy seeds if you prefer.
- Bake one tray of pretzels at a time. Bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake an additional 8-10 minutes until deeply golden brown.
- Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm with grainy mustard and beer cheese. Store extras in the freezer and reheat in the toaster oven or oven.
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Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1 pretzel
Amount Per Serving Calories 336Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 5gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 5gCholesterol 41mgSodium 574mgCarbohydrates 53gFiber 2gSugar 2gProtein 8g
The stated nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It is calculated through third party software and is intended as a guideline only.
There you have it, friends. Whether you call them bread pretzels or soft pretzels, I hope you make and enjoy them.
Thanks for spending some time with me today. Take care, and have a lovely day.
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