Making pretzels isn’t much different from making bagels, but there is a distinct flavor difference even without the lye bath, which I skipped because I am still intimidated—ha! Thanks once again to Maurizio Leo and his book, The Perfect Loaf, for giving me sourdough confidence.
makes 12; adapted from Maurizio Leo's recipe in The Perfect Loaf and one from Hayden Flour Mills
- 600 grams high-protein bread flour (12–14%)
- 175 grams all-purpose flour
- 375 grams water
- 75 grams 100% hydration starter from the refrigerator ok
- 20 grams honey
- 17 grams salt
- 60 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
For pretzel bath
- 15 grams honey
- 25 grams baking soda
Mix the flours and water together and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour to autolyse.
Using an electric mixer and dough hook, add the starter, honey, and salt and once it gets incorporated mix for 4 minutes. Rest for 15 minutes.
With the mixer running, add the butter a tablespoon at a time and mix until incorporated. Transfer the dough to a bowl and cover for bulk fermentation at room temperature, 3–4 hours. Do one set of stretch and folds at hour one.
After bulk fermentation, transfer dough to the refrigerator for an overnight rest to develop flavor. (This timing is somewhat arbitrary and worked for my schedule. If you want to carry on and shape and bake pretzels same day, omit this overnight refrigeration.)
Preshape into 12 rectangles, degassing the dough heavily by pressing with your flat hand. Using your fingertips, fold down a small seam along one of the long edges then continue to crimp and roll into a log shape. Pinch the bottom seam with your fingers and roll the cylinder to smooth it. Repeat with remaining 11 pieces and let all rest for 15 minutes.
Line two sheet pans with parchment. Roll each cylinder into a long rope, about 20–24 inches, thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends. Loop it into a big "U" shape on your work surface, twist the ends and press them pretzel style near the bend in the "U." Transfer to prepared sheet pan.
Proof for one hour covered at room temperature. Remove the cover and transfer sheet pans into the refrigerator for an additional hour. This makes them easier to handle during the boiling step and also develops a thin, dry exterior which results in a distinctive chewy crust.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Add 8 cups of water to a medium pot, add honey and bring it to boil. Add the baking soda. Boil pretzels for 30 seconds on each side. Pull out with a spider or slotted spoon, drain off excess water, and transfer back to parchment-lined sheet pan.
Score pretzels with a sharp knife or lame on the bigger, bottom edge—the "U." Sprinkle with pretzel salt and bake for 10 minutes at 450°. Lower heat to 425° and finish baking for 6–10 additional minutes. Allow to rest a few minutes on the pan then transfer to a cooling rack.
Enjoy pretzels warm from the oven or within 2 days. As Maurizio says, "...with butter, mustard, and a pint of beer, of course."
Recipe Notes / Tips
- Wheat Montana's all-purpose flour has a protein content of 13% so it is a good choice for the total flour amount in this recipe. If you happen to have bread flour, use it but it is not necessary if your all-purpose is hefty.
- If desired, use up to 50 grams whole wheat flour in place of the all-purpose
- The key with pretzels (and bagels) is not to over hydrate the dough, it is a stiff dough and doesn't need much in the way of typical sourdough stretch and folds. If you do none, it'll still be good.
- A lye bath is what gives pretzels their distinctive chestnut brown color, but it is not something I choose to do so my pretzels are pale. If you're interested, Maurizio has tips in The Perfect Loaf. Wear your gloves!
- As with all sourdough, make it fit your life. You want to develop some sour flavor here, so either start with a levain, or retard the fermentation with some refrigerator time.
- Buy pretzel salt to last a lifetime at Nuts.com