Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video Tutorial

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video Tutorial - In Color Order
Bretzel Bread, a photo by jenib320 on Flickr.
I've been promising this post and video for over a year, but I finally did it! If you've been reading this blog even for a few months, you'll know how much I love baking Bretzel bread. Bretzel is German pretzel bread, like a soft pretzel but in roll/loaf form. It is my favorite food ever, and I love baking it. I always get questions whenever I make this bread, so I put together this post for anyone who's ever wanted to bake it!

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! 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!

Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video Tutorial - In Color Order
Bretzel, a photo by jenib320 on Flickr.
- Do not try to substitute regular flour for the bread flour. Bread flour has extra gluten in it, and it really gives it that chewy pretzel like texture. If you don't plan to use it a lot, store it in the refrigerator in a plastic bag to keep it fresh.

- 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
Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video Tutorial - In Color Order
Bretzel, a photo by jenib320 on Flickr.
- After you add the yeast and are waiting the 10 minutes, your yeast should foam up. If it doesn't, start over! It's been killed!

- 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'll 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. Kitchenaid mixers 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
Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video Tutorial - In Color Order
Bretzel, a photo by jenib320 on Flickr.
- Be careful, you need a rolling boil! Add the baking soda very slowly, it bubbles up quite a bit.

- 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!

Bretzel Bread: Tricks and Video Tutorial - In Color Order
Heaven, a photo by jenib320 on Flickr.
- Don't forget to cut slits in the top of your rolls AFTER they've been in the bath so that air can escape during baking. I use a serrated knife to cut the slits.

- 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 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!

Happy Baking!


Lynn M said...

this looks wonderful. I'm glad you mentioned buying your kitchenaid at the thrift store. I know of a place to buy secondhand items online and I have been watching the kitchenaids on there. They go up to over 50 bucks almost every time. Which is still a great deal if they work. I'm just worried about buying one secondhand. I want to invest in one, but if I buy a cheap one and it breaks down, the investment is lost.

Impera Magna said...

EXCELLENT! I'm going to give this a try...

jmday said...

Yum! BTW, I love that you have your flour in an old Tupperware container. My mom's flour and sugar are still in hers (green). If I could find a set, I would so buy them. :)

Betsy Lynn said...

OMG...those look so yummy!

CathyK said...

Oh my goodness! These look so yummy. I visited Germany a few years ago, and the pretzels were AMAZING! This reminds me a little of them. I really want to give this a try!

Leiii said...

can't wait to try this!! Hi jenni, this is lei, I have been watching your blog for a while, it is sooooo beautiful and informative !!! Looking at amazing quilts and cute George pics have been my break time during experiments:)

aneela said...

I guess I'd better put a Kitchenaid on my wish list then ;)
Thanks for the how to, need to try this ASAP!!!

Karen M said...

When you are watching the dough balls in the boiling soda water, what are you looking for to know they are ready to flip or that they are done? Do they float? Does the surface of the dough look different?

randi--i have to say said...

What a great post! Thanks for the how to. Hope to try this bread soon!

Jeni Baker said...

Karen M - Honestly, nothing! They should float right away and it's really all about time. I'm counting in my head to 15 seconds. The surface of the dough doesn't noticeably change while it's in the water! :)

Jacey said...

I will definitely make this someday! I always drool when you post it, and I know it would be a dangerous thing to have in my reach. ;) Thanks for sharing the video!

Jessica said...

Oh man I'm seriously tempted by this recipe.

If you live in/near salt lake, can I also recommend the pretzel rolls at Vosen's German Bakery downtown? They only make them on Fridays and Saturdays, but they are my heaven. So delicious! Can't wait to try making them at home!

holly said...

I love pretzel bread - I can't wait to try this recipe! Thanks!

Katy Cameron said...

Oooh, those look yummy, even if they remind me of hot cross buns!

Dani said...

Thanks so much for this post Jeni! My husband loves these and now I can make them for him rather than buying :)

Ali said...

Sheesh, I've been meaning to make pretzel bread for years but keep forgetting about it - I am happy that one of my favorite sewing blogs reminded me! Thank you for the walk through and the link!

Twinfibers said...

Yummy!!! You sure do know how to make this the best way possible! :)

machen und tun said...

i am so gonna make this! even though Bretzeln (or "Brezn" as they are called here in Munich) are readily available here in Germany (and in the southern part especially), i always wanted to make that myself but shied away from the cooking part. watching your great video convinced me that i CAN do that, too. So thank you very much indeed, from pretzel lover to pretzel lover :-)

Unknown said...

Buuuhahah, I love you so much. I still haven't made these, but at least once a week I look at the picture of them. I've finally read the instructions and watched the video. Next step must be making them. But, haha, I have some like 2 year old flour bread and 4 year old baking soda...I guess I should replace.
Also, have you actually had a kitchenaid walk off the counter. terrifying!