Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Traditional soft pretzel recipes require a lye bath, but thankfully, you can achieve similar results with a baking soda bath. The advantage of using baking soda is that you probably already have it on hand and it's safe to handle, unlike lye. I have tried a few different Bretzel recipes, but this one is my all-time favorite, I now use it exclusively. I don't make any changes, it's that good! You can find it here. I'm going to share a few tips and then walk you through preparing your rolls, the baking soda bath, and finishing your Bretzel rolls. The video is at the very end of this post!
- Yeast, baking soda, and bread flour all have expiration dates, make sure and check them before baking!
- I use regular active dry yeast for this recipe. We used quick rising once, but it didn't work as well. I've never used bread machine yeast either. If in doubt, stick with regular!
- If you're like me and forget to set out butter and milk to warm to room temperature (or you're impatient!), here is a little trick. Melt your butter in the microwave, then pour the milk into the same dish. Put the dish back in the fridge for a few minutes, until it feels lukewarm.
- Invest in a simple thermometer. They're inexpensive and take the guesswork out of getting your water right. I have this one, you can buy them at most big-box stores! I like to get my water to 115 degrees F (you're aiming for 110-120), that way if my milk/butter is a little too warm or too cold, it shouldn't be a big deal.
Making the Dough
- I almost always end up using the full 3 cups of flour.
- After the first rise, I use a Kitchenaid Mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough for 10 minutes (keep an eye on that mixer, they're sometimes "walk" right off the counter if you're not careful!). If you don't have an electric mixer, knead by hand for 15-20 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. Try not to add too much extra flour.
- If you're thinking about buying an electric mixer but hesitating because of the price, don't forget to check your local consignment shops. Kitchenaids last a long time. My Mom has one from the 70s that is still in great working order, they're tanks! Mine is from a thrift store, but it's rather new since it's a colored one! You can often find good deals on new ones around the holidays too!
- I like to separate the dough into four balls rather than two. I like smaller rolls!
- As you're forming the rolls, make sure to stretch the dough and tuck the ends under until it's sealed on the bottom. You don't want water to get into the dough during the bath.
Baking Soda Bath
- If you plan on making this recipe more than once, I'd highly recommend purchasing a spider strainer, I use this one. It is the perfect size and shape for lowering the rolls into the bath. You have to be gentle with the dough at this point, because you don't want the rolls to open up and water to get into them. You could also use a slotted spoon, or slotted pancake turner.
- The rolls should float up to the surface when you put them in the bath.
- After the rolls have been in the bath for 15-20 seconds, flip them over and let the other side sit for another 15-20 seconds. Lift out carefully.
- I like to do one roll at a time to make sure the pot isn't too crowded and I can keep an eye on them.
- When you're finished, it's perfectly safe to dump the water down the kitchen sink. I usually do so while it's still hot, cleans out your drain like nothing else!
- Sprinkle kosher salt on top! If you forget to do this before baking, it's not the end of the world, just add it when they're done.
- Apply melted butter immediately after they come out of the oven. I use a silicon pastry brush (mine is a cheap $1 one!) to apply the butter.
- The bread tastes best hot from the oven. Cut in half and eat alone (my favorite), or with butter or jelly. Would also make a fantastic sandwich bun!
- If you have leftovers, don't store them in an airtight container, the crust will get mushy. You can leave them sitting out overnight. I give it a quick go in the microwave and it's perfect for breakfast!
Okay, now for the video! I show you how to form the dough into the rolls and the baking soda bath. Thanks to Michael for taping it!
I hope that is helpful! The baking soda bath can be a little scary the first time around, but I promise it's doable! If you have any questions, please ask, I'll reply in the comments!