Pretzel Rolls

img_0422Whether it’s for your own Oktoberfest, a festive dinner party, a picnic or – yes, that would be very German – breakfast, your guests will remember these rolls for a while. For me, the crispy brown crust sprinkled with sea salt crystals and the nearly sweet white interior will forever make them superior any standard dinner roll. And these pretzels rolls are surprisingly easy to make from scratch. Pretzels are given their characteristic color and flavor by boiling them briefly in a lye solution, but since bakers’ lye is hard to get by, baking soda dissolved in water will do the trick. 

Before we start baking, allow me to set the nomenclature straight. In Germany, the family of these baked goods is called “Laugengebäck” – lye pastry, after the lye solution that the unbaked dough pieces are cooked in. The legend has it, that the method was invented by a baker who accidentally dropped a bunch of unbaked pretzels into a bucket of soapy water that he had set up for cleaning. He still baked them (ew!) and discovered that they had this really great crust and taste.

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So there we have it – a kitchen accident that lead to culinary discovery. But to return to the naming issue. The word pretzel (or German: Bretzel) goes back to Medieval Latin “brachitella,” meaning as much as “with folded little arms.” It refers to the shape of the baked good – the traditional shape that lye pastries come in. A “pretzel roll” is a bit of an oxymoron then, but call them what you like – and let’s get baking!

Pretzel rolls (Laugenbrötchen). 16 rolls. They grow stale after a day, but they’ll be gone before you know it. If you ever have rolls left over, use them to make bread dumplings…

  • 5.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4.5 tbsp baking soda
  • 1.5 quarts water

Step one. Put the flour in a bowl and make a hole in the middle. Pour in half a cup of water, carefully stir in the sugar and yeast. Leave it for 15 minutes until the yeast starts bubbling a little.

Step two. Add salt and start mixing either with your hands or with the dough hook of your mixer. Slowly add the remaining cup of water until the dough comes together. Make sure it doesn’t get too wet. Usually, it doesn’t take all of the water – depending on what flour you use. Let raise for 1 h.

Step three. Shape 16 pretzel rolls, following the video I made for you. Let them raise for another thirty minutes. In the meantime, set up the soda water, your replacement for baker’s lye. Simply bring the 1.5 quarts of water to a boil and add the soda. It foams quite a bit, so be prepared for it. In batches of four, boil the rolls for 1 minute.

Step four. Put the rolls on a baking sheet covered with parchment. Cut them cross-wise like in the photos and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 400 Fahrenheit for 18-20 minutes.

Serve warm with butter or Liptauer.

How to make the dough ahead of time. If you want fresh rolls for breakfast, make the dough a night ahead. Follow steps one and two, using only one tsp of yeast. Instead of letting the dough raise for 1 h, keep it in the fridge over night. The next morning, follow steps three and four.

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