Pretzels – the definitive recipe

I’ve been try­ing to work out how to make prop­er Ger­man-style pret­zels for a cou­ple of years now. They’re just per­fect with a pint – fill­ing, salty and, well, Ger­man.

Today, I final­ly nailed it.

There are lots of recipes around and I tried most of them, but none quite seemed to do the trick. The tex­ture was nev­er quite right – it should be chewy on the out­side and fluffy in the mid­dle. Our recent trip to Ger­many only made me more deter­mined to crack the prob­lem – I couldn’t bear the thought of wait­ing until our next hol­i­day to have anoth­er pret­zel!

Boak did man­age to find authen­tic pret­zels in a Ger­man bak­ery on the Bromp­ton Road and it was inspect­ing one of those that helped me per­fect my recipe.

Almost any fluffy white dough will do. The tricks are all in the fin­ish­ing. Specif­i­cal­ly, the shape you roll the dough into before you make the famous pret­zel shape; the fact that you boil it before bak­ing; coat­ing it with a solu­tion of bicar­bon­ate of soda [UPDATE: use about one lev­el tea­spoon of bicarb]; and slash­ing the top with a knife.

Recipe after the jump.

Ingre­di­ents

400 grams of white bread flour

1.5 tea­spoons of salt

1 tablespoon/1 sachet of dried yeast

150 mil­li­l­itres of warm water

75 mil­li­l­itres of milk

Rock salt

Bicar­bon­ate of soda

Method

Mix togeth­er the flour, salt, water, milk and yeast – I did it in my Mag­im­ix with the dough hook, which took about 30 sec­onds.

Knead the ball of dough (which should be soft and elas­tic) with a lit­tle more flour and then put it in an oiled mix­ing bowl cov­ered with a teatow­el. Leave it to rise for about 30–40 min­utes.

When it’s dou­bled in size, knock it back, knead it a bit more, and then put it back to rise for anoth­er 30 min­utes.

Get a large pan of water boil­ing and put the oven on to 190 degrees centi­grade.

When the dough is ready, take it out of the bowl and cut it into about six equal pieces. Cov­er them with a teatow­el.

Take one piece and roll it out into a kind of sausage shape. Don’t flour the sur­face – that will stop you rolling it prop­er­ly. Once you’ve got a cylin­der, start rolling it so that there is a bulge in the mid­dle, with both ends taper­ing out to about 1.5 cen­time­tres in thick­ness. The whole thing should be around 30–40 cen­time­tres in length.

Then take the two ends, bring them into the cen­tre, and fix them to the bulge in the cen­tre with a bit of water.

When you’ve shaped six pret­zels, boil them one or two at a time, for about a minute each. When they come out of the water, put them on paper tow­els to dry.

Make a solu­tion from the bicar­bon­ate of soda and about 100 mil­li­l­itres of warm water and thor­ough­ly oil a bak­ing sheet. Then dip each pret­zel into the solu­tion and put them on the bak­ing tray. Sprin­kle them with rock salt (or pump­kin seeds, sun­flower seeds, sesame seeds – what­ev­er you fan­cy).

Then, with a sharp knife, cut a line a cen­time­tre or so deep across the thick part of the pret­zel. This makes them split, and makes them look like a prop­er pret­zel.

Then put the tray in the oven for 20–25 min­utes, or until they’re dark gold­en brown.

When they come out of the oven, let them cool for an hour or two, which will help the out­sides hard­en, giv­ing that famil­iar chewy-but-fluffy tex­ture that makes pret­zels so sat­is­fy­ing.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Bai­ley

PS -Ger­manophiles going to GBBF may want to note that the K&S bak­ery, which spe­cialis­es in Ger­man breads, cakes and has the most authen­tic pret­zels in Lon­don, is just down the road from Earl’s Court.

17 thoughts on “Pretzels – the definitive recipe”

  1. My first assump­tion was that they’d been coat­ed in malt or malt extract, but this bicar­bon­ate of soda trick real­ly does seem to nail the flavour. Prob­a­bly couldn’t hurt to use beer for the boil, though – or maybe even add beer to the dough..?

  2. Taste and tex­ture are good but I put too much rock salt on sur­face. Will try again with­out rock salt, per­haps with pop­py seeds or sesame seeds. Thanks for post­ing this recipe. The only thing you need to do is explain the pro­por­tions of the Bicarb of Soda solu­tion. How many tea­spoons per 100 mil­li­l­itres of water ?

  3. I tried. And failed. Fol­lowed the recipe metic­u­lous­ly, but still failed. You neglect to state how much bicarb is sup­posed to be in the coat­ing mix­ture, and it end­ed up look­ing and tast­ing like home made piz­za dough, just over­done. And can you also explain how to get the wet pret­zels off paper tow­els with­out leav­ing bits of paper tow­el on the bot­tom or wreck­ing the pret­zel?

  4. Leni – sor­ry it didn’t work out for you. I didn’t have any trou­ble with the kitchen tow­els break­ing up. Maybe try using a clean cot­ton tea-tow­el instead? I’ve added a mea­sure­ment for the bicarb to the recipe – a lev­el tea­spoon is about what I use.

  5. The Beer­nut linked me back to this page from my recent blog entry:

    Here.

    These look real­ly good! The roll that leave a bulge in the mid­dle is a real obvi­ous but great idea! I hadn’t thought of that but will definet­ly give it a try next time. Good stuff. 🙂

    Mark.

  6. Thanks for this – just made my first batch and recipe was fan­tas­tic.

    Can’t quite get the uber crusty sur­face and dark dark brown colour­ing though – any tips?

  7. Jen – glad you liked it and that the recipe worked for you. How long did you leave them in the oven for? I’m quite an impa­tient bak­er and tend to take things out too soon, and these did need quite a while to real­ly turn dark.

  8. Will have to try your recipe, though I have my own which is VERY good. One thing though, you got the shape wrong. You need to twist the arms togeth­er and then rest the tips on top of the bread rather than under­neath.

  9. Chris – you’re right about the shape. Fun­ni­ly enough, I was mak­ing some bread (not pret­zels) last night and, as I was mess­ing around with the dough, made a cou­ple of pret­zel shapes and did it the way you describe, and it sud­den­ly looked much more “pret­ze­ly”.

  10. Bril­liant, thank you very much for the clear instruc­tions. They turned out just as I want­ed, except they stuck to the bak­ing paper, which was my fault because I plonked them on it still wet from the bicar­bon­ate of soda dip. Once we’d cut them free they tast­ed deli­cious, next time I’ll use the greased bak­ing tray as sug­gest­ed!

    1. Amy – glad it worked out. I now swear by Cir­cu­lon non-stick bak­ing sheets, by the way.

  11. Hey, broth­er. (Lit­tle­Bai­ley is my broth­er, not my son, despite his poor­ly cho­sen pseu­do­nym.)

  12. Made pret­zels last night, they were amaz­ing, thanks a mil­lion for the recipe post. Couldn’t quite wait for them to cool before taste test­ing!
    I’m look­ing for­ward to host­ing a beer and pret­zel after­noon in the sun this sum­mer, sure to impress!
    Thanks again 🙂

  13. Wa-hey! Glad to hear they worked out for you, Talia. They’re a bit of an effort, but absolute­ly worth it.

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