Is there anything better than a warm, soft pretzel straight out of the oven? We’ve all had one, whether it’s been at a festival, shopping mall, or sporting event, often with a container of cheese or mustard dipping sauce on the side.
Known as Bretzel, Bretze, or Bretzen in Germany, pretzels are a beloved hallmark of traditional German baking. Please keep reading for our favorite recipe for German soft pretzels (auf Deutsch, Laugenbrezeln!).
You can whip up this treat anytime you’d like, right from the comfort of your kitchen!
What is the Difference Between a Bavarian Pretzel and a Regular Pretzel?
We’re typically used to two kinds of pretzels in the US: Tiny, crunchy prepackaged pretzels and soft, freshly-baked jumbo pretzels.
While both of these are delicious, they’re not quite the same as a Bavarian pretzel.
Bavarian pretzels are made from a straightforward yeast dough that’s shaped into a pretzel and dipped in a lye bath before baking. To prepare this bath, you’ll need two tablespoons of food-grade lye and a quart of water.
You’ll also need a large stainless steel or glass bowl. Avoid aluminum, as it reacts with lye and creates hydrogen gas. It’s also an excellent idea to wear safety gloves while handling lye, as direct contact can result in burns.
After pouring your quart of water into your mixing bowl, you can spoon in the food-grade lye and watch it dissolve.
Though preparing this solution might seem cumbersome, it’s crucial to remember that a lye bath is a key to making authentic Bavarian pretzels. Still, this recipe may not be suitable for beginner-level bakers and home cooks.
How to Serve a German Soft Pretzel
There are quite a few ways to serve soft pretzels. Germans typically dip their pretzels in butter, but the great thing about making your own is that you can use whatever dip you’d like!
Some of our favorite types of dips include:
- Melted cheese
- Honey mustard
- Spicy mustard
- Mustard cheese sauce
- German beer cheese
Still, no matter what dip you choose, it’s best to serve your Bavarian pretzels while they’re still warm. Ideally, you’ll be plating and serving these delightfully tasty treats 10 minutes after they exit the oven.
Of course, you could also choose to freeze or refrigerate your pretzels (once they’ve thoroughly cooled) to increase their shelf life.
Authentic Bavarian Pretzel Recipe (Laugenbrezeln)
Bavarian pretzels are jumbo-sized, golden brown snacks with a crisp outer shell and a soft, pull-apart center. Their brown exterior and distinct flavor come from sodium hydroxide (lye) exposure immediately before baking.
Step 1: Proof the Yeast
The first thing you’ll want to do is proof your yeast.
To do this, you’ll need to combine your instant yeast with 1/4 of a cup of warm water (no hotter than 115°F/46°C) and 1/2 a teaspoon of granulated sugar in a medium-sized bowl.
Place the bowl in a warm room, or store it inside an inactive microwave or oven. After ten minutes, check the bowl. It should have a light brown, foamy surface that’s full of bubbles.
If you don’t see this reaction, you may need to try again.
Yeast is one of the most crucial aspects of baking, as it allows delicious baked goods to expand and become airy and light. If your yeast doesn’t proof (become bubbly), your pretzels will likely be flat and hard.
Step 2: Make Pretzel Dough
Combine your dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl (bread flour, table salt, diastatic malt powder). When the components are thoroughly mixed, you’ll want to add your wet ingredients (warm water, butter, yeast mixture).
You can whisk these elements together by hand or use a standing mixer.
If you’re using a stand mixer, use low speed for around three minutes to gently incorporate the ingredients before bumping it up to medium for five minutes or until the dough looks well developed.
Cover your dough with plastic wrap or a thick kitchen cloth and let it rise for approximately 45 minutes in a warm location (just as you did with your yeast mixture). It should double in size during this time.
Then, use a spatula to separate the dough from the sides of the mixing bowl. Apply a small amount of flour to your palms before touching the dough, as it will be pretty sticky.
Flip the dough onto a floured surface, and use a dough scraper to divide it into 10 equal pieces. You can use a scale to ensure that the weight of each dough piece is uniform (approximately 100 grams each).
Step 3: Shape Dough Into Ropes
If necessary, add a little more bread flour to your palms to keep the dough from sticking to them. Then, take one of your dough pieces and begin rolling it back and forth to form a rope-like shape.
Be careful not to apply too much pressure and flatten your dough, as this will push the air out and lead to hard, flat pretzels. It’s also crucial to avoid overworking your dough, as doing so will generate excess gluten.
While a bit of gluten can be great, adding chewiness to your pretzels, too much can make it nearly impossible to shape your pretzels.
Your dough ropes should measure about 8in (20.3cm) in length. When you have ten of them, let them rest on a floured surface and cover them with a loose sheet of plastic wrap or a clean cotton kitchen towel.
This second proof will make your dough more malleable and easier to shape into pretzels. Leave them undisturbed for 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 4: Shape Dough Into Pretzels
When your dough has enjoyed a second rise, you can preheat your oven to 450°F (232°C) and begin shaping your dough into pretzels.
Focusing on one piece of pretzel dough at a time, roll the dough into an 18-22″ long rope, and form it into an upside-down U shape. Take the tip of the right end and fold it over the left side.
Then take the end that’s now on the right side and then put it over the left side again, forming the second twist. Take both tips and fold them up, so they overlap each side of the pretzel loop.
Gently press on the overlapping ends to help encourage sticking. Place your completed pretzels onto a non-stick silicone baking sheet.
Cover your pretzels with plastic wrap and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Then, place them into the fridge for at least one hour (12 hours maximum).
Refrigerating your pretzels can help them retain their shape during the lye bath, and it may also result in a richer and more complex flavor profile.
Step 5: Prepare the Lye Solution
Now it’s time to prepare the lye solution. You’ll first need to put on your safety goggles and protective gloves.
Remember, lye is strong enough to dissolve almost any organic matter, including skin tissue. As a result, it can cause severe burns if it comes into contact with your eyes or skin.
After you’re wearing your protective equipment, fetch a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl (the larger, the safer). Add four cups (one quart) of cold water to the bowl.
Then, carefully measure out two teaspoons of food-grade lye using a plastic or stainless steel measuring spoon. Gently add the lye to the water and gently dissolve using a whisk.
When the mixture is a murky brown color, it’s time to dip your pretzels. It’s crucial to keep your protective gloves and goggles on during this step.
Step 6: Dip the Pretzels in the Lye Solution
Gently lift one pretzel and carefully place it into your lye bath. Wait about 8 seconds, then flip the pretzel so that the other side has the chance to soak in the lye solution.
After that, lift the pretzel from the bath and place it on a silicone baking sheet. Repeat this process for all ten pretzels.
Pour the lye mixture down your kitchen sink, then remove your protective gloves. Immediately rinse your used bowl with a mixture of cold water and vinegar.
Lye can become incredibly hot when it comes into contact with water, but a water-and-vinegar solution can help cool it down and wash it away. It may also be a good idea to rinse your hands with distilled vinegar, just in case!
Finally, you can sprinkle kosher salt onto the damp tops of your pretzels, and place them into the oven to bake.
Step 7: Bake the Pretzels
Bake the pretzels at 450°F (232°C) for 14 to 16 minutes. It’s important to note that the lye bath will give your pretzels a noticeably brown crust, which can make it challenging to gauge their doneness.
Still, you can use a toothpick to determine whether they’re fully cooked. After the 14-minute mark, take a wooden toothpick and insert it into the thickest part of one of your pretzels.
Pull the toothpick out and examine it. If it’s clean, your pretzels are likely ready to cool. If it has a few dough crumbs sticking to it, you’ll need to let your pretzels continue cooking for another two or three minutes.
Step 8: Cool and Serve
When your pretzels are golden brown, it’s time to remove them from the oven and let them cool. Carefully transfer your baked Bavarian pretzels from the baking sheet to a metal rack.
A stainless steel spatula can help you separate and lift the pretzels without denting them.
Your delightful jumbo pretzels should be cool enough to serve in 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to take advantage of this cooling time by pouring your chosen dipping sauce into a small bowl or ramekin.
Then, voilà! It’s time to enjoy every delicious, salty bite of these authentic Laugenbrezeln.
Check Out Edelweiss European Bakery Deli and Cafe for More Snacks
Learning how to make a Bavarian pretzel could be a wonderful gift for yourself and your appetite. However, this homemade snack is only one of many.
From Challah to cookies to raisin Babka, you’re sure to find something you love from Edelweiss European Bakery Deli and Cafe. So, visit our website and order a delicious treat today!