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April 20, 2008

Bretzel vs Pretzel - The deluxe recipe

This is the hard way of baking original German (Swabian) Bretzels. For the easy way, check out the Pretzel post at TheFreshLoaf. And by the way, I do think that going the extra mile of creating the Pâte fermentée and using real lye (Food grade Sodium Hydroxide - NaOH, which I bought from AAA Chemicals) is totally worth the effort.

I got the recipe from a German site called Chili und Chiabatta. This is my English version, slightly simplified:

A day ahead, create the Pâte fermentée (fermented dough):

  • 144g White Flour
  • 94g Water
  • 2.8g Salt
  • 1 pinch of Dry Yeast
Kneed everything together, cover and let rise for 12-16h at about 70F.

Now create the real dough:

  • 578g White Flour
  • 340g Water
  • 12g Salt
  • 14g Fresh Yeast (I used 2.5 tsp Dry Yeasy)
  • 36g soft Butter
  • 7g Baking Malt (I used 1 tbsp Cane Sugar)
  • 240g Pâte fermentée (all the above)
Mix everything together, except the Pâte fermentée, for 3min in the FoodPro. Now add the Pâte fermentée in chunks and continue to kneed for 5min. Let rise for 1h (in a slightly greased bowl, covered with cling wrap at 21C), fold the dough and let rise for another hour.

Make about 15 portions (85g each) and roll them out to about 60cm long 'worms' with a thick middle section. Lay into the typical Bretzel shape.
Cover with cloth and let rise for 30-45min. Now cool in the fridge for 30min - the Bretzels are a lot easier to handle afterward.

Now the fun part - The lye:

  • 1250g cold Water
  • 50g NaOH
Warning: Wear protective goggles and gloves and only use glass or stainless steel - especially aluminum does not withstand this solution (check your baking pan)!
(Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 230C) Slowly stir the NaOH into the cold water until fully dissolved. Using a large skimmer dunk each Bretzel into the solution for 5s. Top with coarse salt and using a sharp knife, make an incision at the belly of the Bretzel.

Update: Because those Bretzels taste the best right after baking, I did try to freeze a couple of them at this point in the process and the result was encouraging - Give it a try, if you don't think you will eat all of them right away :)

On a well greased baking pan (No Al!) bake the Bretzels for 14-16min at 230C.

Bretzels taste best when still warm - try them with a Bavarian Cheese spread called, aka Obatzda!

Posted by marco at April 20, 2008 7:57 PM in Category Recipes

Web marcofrom.com


Congratulations - your Bretzels look great!

Hi--thanks for posting this! I have lye on hand because I make soap, so this would be no problem for me.

I have made them with a baking soda solution, which gets pretty close, but I'd like to try your recipe.

One question--instead of freezing them in dough form, have you ever tried baking them plain (no salt) and freezing at that stage? This is a way to have it be a quick kid's snack--you get one out, wet the surface with water on your fingertip, then quickly sprinkle the salt so it will stick to the surface. Then you can toast or even quicker, microwave for a few seconds and it's ready to serve.

Thanks, Belinda - I'll try that. My wife requested Pretzels for the weekend :)

Hello Marco,

My husband is a "Schwab" so he wouldn't settle for anything less than authentic. This recipe gets his two thumbs up!

I have made your translated recipe several times and have a few discoveries. I did go the extra mile and bought the sodium hydroxide through AAA chemicals and do the Pâte fermentée. Nothing less will do if you want the real thing. Baking soda is nowhere near as good. I also used fresh yeast the second time and will never go back to dry yeast. They rise and handle better. Haven't located any baking malt so I still use sugar.

I tried your idea of freezing after dunking in the bath but that was not good. What does work exceptionally well is freezing right after shaping but before the final rise. I then thaw them overnight in the fridge, leave at room temp for one hour, dunk and bake. It's the best way to get them fresh, early in the morning. When I initially make the dough I shape and refrigerate overnight and then bake whatever I don't freeze. Thx for posting this!

Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and even improve on the freezing instructions! I will try that ASAP :)


Once I can find some food-grade lye, I am trying these! While the homemade pretzels that I've done have been delicious, they do not have the same taste as those delicious Bavarian ones, and it seems the lye is the key reason! Do you think the dough could be made in a bread maker?

Claire, I'm sure the 2nd batch of dough can be done using the dough program of a bread maker.

I want to try your recipe for Bretzels. I really want to try the overnight dough fermentation. I've made many, many different pretzel recipes and have found zero that make a pretzel like I can buy in Philadelphia. Hopefully this recipe will be what I am looking for. One thing though - all the ingredients are in grams. Do you have a recipe with cups, tsp and tbsp? Thanks

Sorry, Andy. Cups are a terrible measurement for precise baking as you never know how much flour each user puts into a cup, so I'm not going to provide that here.. But you can use Google to easily convert all the measurements, if you search for "578 g in lb"...

Good luck!

You should really avoid metal dishes with lye, and who knows what `stabilizers' are in your plastic ones. I'd go with a glass bowl. Also, the cold water is important, since dry NaOH can give off a lot of heat (i.e. pop/explode) when added to water.

I have not made this yet i just ordered some lye but have made many bagels with a baking soda solution. I am very anxious to see the difference. I would like to comment on the baking malt it makes a HUGE difference in flavor and is wonderful if you are having a hard time finding it try looking for diastatic malt powder, barly malt, or even Barley Malt Syrup works well.

Thanks so much for the Pretzel recipe, after years of search I've found the PERFECT one...my quest is over (lol) Many thanks Sonia :)

Greetings from a fellow Seattlite,
I've made pretzels before, but never with the lye solution. Thanks for a great explanation of how to use it.
I've wondered about making lye with the ashes from my woodfired oven. There's a description of how to do that in one of my old Foxfire books. I'll get back to you once I've tried if I meet with any success!

I've spent my weekend making these using your recipe (more or less!) I didn't have any lye so used bicarbonate of soda instead, and decided to boil them rather than just soak them cold. They've turned out beautifully. At least, I think they have - I've never had a soft pretzel before! They do have the scent and taste that I associate with the hard pretzels I've had though, presumably because of the bicarb? A great success - I'll definitely make them again, and perhaps experiment with freezing them earlier in the process rather than at the end.

Just a follow-up: I froze about 12 pretzels after I baked them a month ago (see above post). I defrosted one yesterday in the microwave, and one today just by leaving it out. Then I warmed them under the grill. They cam out really well, and I still have plenty left in the freezer. I shall definitely make them again once I've eaten my way through my current stash. Thanks again!

I know this is an old post but I'll try anyway...is there a difference between heating the lye or dunking them in cold solution? I heated the lye today just to a simmer but it would be great if I could ignore the heating step. Thank you in advance

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