Soft Pretzel Rolls are flavorful and satisfying in so many recipes – sandwiches, bratwurst, burgers – or just eaten on their own! The soft and chewy texture can’t be beat.
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Let’s talk buns, hun.
While some see them as a mere transportation platform for a burger, sandwich, or bratwurst, I would argue that they are integral part of the eating experience. For example, who would want a nice, juicy cheeseburger to fall to the floor because the thin, stale bun suffered catastrophic structural failure? And who hasn’t had the equally miserable experience of having to pry apart a sandwich just to make sure that yes, there really is half an ounce of turkey hidden between two loaves of bread. A good bun makes the whole thing better, and quite frankly, these soft pretzel rolls are good enough to eat all by themselves.
The Twist of Making Pretzel Rolls
This recipe (courtesy of Alton Brown) is originally meant to give you eight medium size soft pretzels. You know, the kind you grab at the airport or a ball game, except these are way better. And for pretzel rolls, you even get to miss the whole rolling and twisting part. What a time saver! (If you don’t want to save time, portion out into 8 equal pieces, roll them until they are 24 inch long “snakes”, twist into a pretzel shape, and then pinch the dough together to make them into coherent pretzels). The dough comes together in pretty standard fashion with proofing the yeast and mixing in the flour (see our pizza dough recipe for a further primer on yeast leavened dough). However, before you bake the pretzel rolls, you will need to do the extra step required to give them their trademark chewiness: boiling.
It’s an odd step to find in a baking recipe. Honestly I can’t think of anything other than maybe a water bath that calls for boiling water in a baked good. Well, the boiling is there to accelerate the chemical reaction needed to make the pretzel dough a little chewier. Luckily, you won’t have to go all “Breaking Bad” in the kitchen to get this chemistry to work, because you probably already have the required ingredient in your everyday baking soda. Be warned, you’re going to be using a lot more that you are used to when baking, so be sure to check your pantry before starting this recipe. Once you have let the dough rise, you’ll portion out the dough as required, and mold it into your desired shape. While the dough rests, bring your water and baking soda to a boil in a vessel large enough to accommodate the rolls. Once it reaches a boil, place the pretzel rolls in the water and let sit for 30 seconds. Flip, wait another 30 seconds, and then retrieve them, letting the excess water drip off before moving to a sheet pan lined with parchment. Repeat with the remaining rolls. It’s a little tedious, and I swear I always end up with a thin film of baking soda over the stove at the end of it, but at least that comes up fairly easily.
Salty and Sweet
The next step is to brush the pretzel rolls with egg wash, and sprinkle with your salt of choice. You can use pretzel salt if you wish, but I’ve found that coarse kosher salt works fine, as does flaky sea salt. For this batch, we used Maldon because we are super fancy and sophisticated, and not at all because we didn’t have anything else on hand. Side note: if you are a big culinary nerd, I heartily recommend that you read Salt by Mark Kurlansky. It is a truly fascinating read about the role salt has played throughout human history.
While I would recommend going the savory route for most pretzel roll applications, you can also top with cinnamon and sugar to provide a sweeter option that you could eat with butter, jam, or clotted cream. Either way, once they’ve been topped, pop them in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. The egg wash will assist with the browning and make them look amazing. Once they’ve cooled, it’s up to you what to do with them. They’re delicious plain, or with any manner of toppings, like say, molasses and coffee pork belly with a cool vegetable slaw? Not that I’m hinting about a recipe to come or anything…
- 1½ cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4½ cups
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil, for pan
- 5 cups water
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel salt
- Mix the sugar with water until it dissolves. Add the yeast, and wait 5-10 minutes until the yeast is active.
- Add the salt, melted butter, and 1 cup of flour, and mix on low until well incorporated.
- Continue to add the remaining flour in 3 to 4 steps.
- Once all the flour is incorporated, increase the speed to medium high, and let the dough knead for 4-5 minutes. It should pull away from the bowl in a single clump.
- Stop the mixer, and roll the dough into a tight ball. Toss with a little bit of oil, and let rise in a bowl covered with a tea towel for about an hour.
- Knead the air out of the dough, and portion/shape as required (this is the step to break off and make pretzels as instructed above).
- Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
- Add the baking soda to the water, and bring to a boil.
- Place the dough in the water, and let sit for 30 seconds. Flip, and let sit for another 30 seconds.
- Remove from the water, letting the excess water drip off, and then place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
- Brush the rolls with egg wash, and sprinkle with salt.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cooked through and well browned.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool completely,
Recipe adapted from Food Network.