Monday, February 3, 2014

Brezeln (Pretzels)

If you like soft pretzels, you MUST try this recipe! I found this recipe for German Brezeln, which calls for the traditional lye bath that creates a pretzel's distinct flavor. However, like most home cooks, I don't want to mess with lye. Researching the best alternative to a lye bath resulted in this experiment, indicating that a cold bath in sodium monocarbonate gives the best result. The pretzels are then rinsed in water before baking. I tried not rinsing before baking on the lower right pretzel in the photo below. It baked darker and somewhat more crisp, but had an unpleasantly harsh taste. Rinsing is worth the effort. We couldn't believe how delicious they were!

Brezeln (Pretzels)

Brezeln, the original soft pretzels, are eaten in Germany, dipped only in butter. The thin ends are crunchier, with the split back nice and bread-like.


  • 11/2 c.+ 2 Tbsp warm water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 T. salted butter, softened
  • 1 lb 4 oz bread flour
  • 1 tsp malt
  • 1 T. instant active yeast
  • 310 g (11 oz) baking soda
  • Pretzel Salt, or coarse Kosher salt


  1. Place water, salt and butter in mixer. Combine 1 lb flour with malt and yeast, and add to the water mixture.  Mix, then knead for about 7 min, incorporating the remaining 4 oz flour as needed to form a firm, soft, not sticky dough. Transfer to a greased bowl, cover, and proof for 1 hour in a warm place.
  2. Spread baking soda on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake the soda for an hour in a 300° oven, convection if you have it.  Remove soda from the oven, and increase heat to 375°F for the pretzels. The 310 g of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is now about 200 g of sodium carbonate. This will make a stronger base (alkaline) bath for the pretzels.
  3. While the soda is baking, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 pieces, about 3 oz each. Form into balls. Using very little flour, form balls into 1-foot long ropes, thicker in the middle and tapering towards the ends.
  4. Roll each rope out again to form 2-ft ropes. Twist into pretzel shape, and place 6 onto each of two parchment-lined baking sheets. The ends should cross the loop, dividing it into thirds.
  5. Refrigerate the pretzels, uncovered, for 1 hr. This dries them, making them easier to handle.
  6. Measure out four cups (one quart) of water into a container large enough for three pretzels to fit in. Take care not to create or breathe sodium carbonate dust, which is very fine and powdery, and may irritate skin. Slowly stir the sodium carbonate into the water until dissolved. The water should be clear. Rinse off any solution that contacts skin, as it may also irritate. Set up a second container with water-only, for rinsing the pretzels.

  7. Immerse raw, shaped pretzels three at a time in the bath for three to four minutes. Rinse one at a time with a quick dip in the water, then place onto the baking sheet. Do not add excessive water to the pan, but a little is ok. Sprinkle with salt before they dry.
  8. Make a deep cut through the thick part of the pretzel horizontally with a razor blade or sharp knife. Let pretzels rest for 15 minutes.
  9. Bake pretzels for 20-25 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Brush with melted butter, and serve with additional melted butter if desired.


  1. How do you keep them from sticking? I used paper towels to blot them on with parchment paper and non-stick spray with limited success. I also have tried corn meal that isn't any better and I don't like the clumps of corn meal that build up from the moisture.

    1. Is it sticking to the parchment? I shake off the water (gently), then lay the pretzel onto the parchment. Look closely at the photo and you can see that there is still some water around the pretzel, and that is not a problem. If there are big pools of water, I use a paper towel to wick them up, but am careful not to touch the pretzels with it much. I don't use cooking spray or anything else, and I haven't had a problem with them sticking. I use a heavy-duty silicone coated parchment from King Arthur Flour. Hope that helps!