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Wednesday 1 August 2012

Sluttishly Savoury: Pretzels

I will devour bread in any form, but pretzels have become a recent favourite. I'm talking about the big chewy soft ones here, not the small hard snacking ones. I'd assumed they'd be impossible to make at home, and a quick search of traditional recipes confirmed this: you have to boil your pretzel dough in lye. Lye is used to clean ovens and clear drains. It causes serious burns. There is no chance that I'd be using it, even in a safe diluted form, in my kitchen, no matter how many chefs rave about how it gives you a definitive flavour.

Instead, I've boiled them in baking soda, which makes them browner and intensifies the flavour. You can brush them with beaten egg if you really can't be faffed with boiling, but boiling them makes for a denser, chewier taste. And it's fun! How often do you get to plunge dough into boiling water?

Use the dough recipe below or simply your favourite white dough recipe. What matters is what you do to the dough when it's ready - shape it, fridge it, boil it, add your favourite toppings, bake it, eat it while it's warm.

Pretzels (makes 10-12)

You will need:

For the pretzels:
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 350ml warm water
For the boiling:
  • 1 tsp baking soda
 For the toppings:
  • Rock salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds - whatever you fancy.
Make it!
  1. Add the flour, salt, yeast and olive oil to a large bowl and stir in the water until it forms a sticky ball. Leave it to rest for 10 minutes, then tip onto a lightly oiled surface. Knead briefly by holding the dough down with one hand and stretching it away with the other, giving a quarter-turn, and repeating a dozen times. 
  2. Return to the bowl and knead it twice more at 10 minute intervals, then leave to rise for 40 minutes, covered with a teatowel..
  3. Take a piece of dough and roll it out to 30-40cm long and 1.5cm thick. Take the two ends, cross them over and attach them to the main body of the pretzel. It's hard to explain the shape, so check out the picture. Repeat with the rest of the dough and leave to rise on a tray lined with baking paper for 20 minutes. Cover with lightly oiled clingfilm.
  4. Now, stick them in the fridge for 10 minutes. This will toughen them up before boiling.
  5. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Get a large pan of boiling water on the go and add the baking soda. Carefully lower each pretzel in on a slotted spoon for  around 30 seconds, then return to the baking sheet.
  6. Sprinkle on your toppings and bake for 15-20 minutes, until dark golden brown.
  7. Leave for an hour on a cooling rack so the pretzels develop a chewy outer skin, then eat!


  1. I keep meaning to give pretzels a go, definitely going to now!

  2. These look so tasty! Thanks for figuring out a non-frightening way to make them.

  3. I've only recently found how much I love pretzels....I'm the same and can just eat bread all on its own!

    Really want to try this. Cheese is my favourite topping. For pretzels and everything really.

  4. Hazel - please do! They got better after a day too, more satisfyingly chewy.
    Anon - the scariest bit is watching the water froth up after you put baking soda in. Ooooh.
    Underaglasssky - you could add grated cheese to the dough for extra cheesiness. Maybe some cayenne too, to spice it up?

  5. You have to boil bagels as well, loads of bread boiling going on.


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