When the weather turns and the cold creeps into the house I turn to baking to keep the family well fed and in good spirits. Not just for Oktoberfest, but year round this a one of my family’s favorite recipes.
The most amazing pretzels you can bake at home (now with lye, because you only live once!)
Inspiration: This recipe is adaptation from a recipe I found in Daniel Leader’s book Bread Alone. It is a wonderful bread baking book in which Daniel Leader, baker of famed ‘Bread Alone’ from Boiceville, New York tells the stories of his travels all over Europe, where he finds the most amazing local recipes from Italy, France, Germany, and other areas. Buy it — it’s worth every penny!
The BEST Brezeln (that’s how it’s spelled in German) recipe in America
(Makes two baking sheets full, or about 16, depending on the size, because why wouldn’t you want that many?)
Yes, all measurements are in grams, because if you’re baking and haven’t switched to grams, you are doing it wrong.
- 1000 grams four.
I use a basic bread flour, an all purporse flour from the grocery store will work.
- 80 grams unsalted butter, cut into little 1/4 inch chunks.
- 600 grams water, lukewarm.
- 10 grams instant yeast.,
- 25 grams of sea salt.
- For topping, coarse sea salt.
- Preferred: 1/2 cup of lye solution, dissolved in 10 cups of warm water.
- Optional: baking soda 80 grams.
To be added to the water for boiling the pretzel before baking.
For the pre-bake bath you have two options:
Boil the pretzels or dip them in a lye solution. I used to only boil them because I was a chicken and didn’t want to deal with the lye. I finally broke down, bought some lye on Amazon and carefully followed the steps in Luisa Weiss excellent ‘Classic German Baking‘ book.
- Weigh out the flour, add it to a large mixing bowl and add the chunks of butter to the flour and crumble the butter with your hands.
- Add the water and mix it all together into a rough dough.
- Sprinkle the salt on one side and yeast on the other side of the dough, mix a bit more and drop onto your lightly floured counter to kneed.
- Knead for 10-15 minutes by hand until the dough is amazing. Smooth, springy, beautiful. Yes, kneading for that long is totally worth it!
- Put the dough into an lightly oiled mixing bowl and let rise in a warm place for an hour, until it’s doubled in size.
- After at least an hour take the dough out of the bowl, divide it into 16 pieces with a pastry cutter and form pretzels. I looked at some Youtube videos and didn’t like any one, so I will have to make one myself someday. But in the meantime, you can make pretzel rolls, pretzel sticks, pretzel knots, pretzel anything… all delicious.
Lay them on a baking sheet. You need two sheets for 16 pretzels. I have silpats, but any non-stick paper underneath will work fine.
- 7. The original recipe now calls for “retarding” the pretzels in the fridge. This makes the dough a little harder and easier to handle when boiling. I don’t want to wait for the fridge to cool them down, so I pop them in the freezer. Just 20 minutes, or until you got your lye solution dissolved.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Now for the lye solution:
Wear latex gloves and be sure the lye solution doesn’t touch your skin!
In a big metal mixing bowl pour in the water first, add the lye and carefully dissolve the crystals. Open the windows in your kitchen and try not to inhale the fumes from the dissolving lye (once it’s fully dissolved, the fumes disappear!)
Now take the pretzels out of the freezer and drop them carefully! into the solution, let them sit in there for 10-20 seconds and use a slotted spoon or skimmer ladle to remove the pretzels from the water bath. Briefly let the lye solution drip off (make sure not too much so ends on the baking sheet) and return the pretzel onto the baking sheet.
- Add the coarse sea salt and slash the bigger bottoms with a sharp knife or a bread lame.
- Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for ~25min until they are deep brown and smell and look delicious.
Alternate, but subpar option: Bring a big pot of water to a boil, and carefully! add the baking soda. Be really careful as the baking soda makes the water bubble up violently. Add the pretzels to the simmering water, make sure you don’t crowd the pot. Boil them for 20 seconds on each side, take them out with a slotted spoon and arrange them on the baking sheet with space so they don’t touch each other.
Eat warm, with nothing but butter. Well, nothing but butter and of course a German Hefeweizen.
The pretzels also freeze really well if you put them in zip lock bags right after they completely cooled down. Take them out for lunches throughout the week. Or of course, to stay on message, take them hiking with you.
This recipe I had posted once on my personal blog, then refined for a Medium post and published here on The Outdoor Society a couple years ago, but I refined the recipe and felt the need to update it – you are welcome!