I love soft pretzels. The kind with the chewy exterior and the super soft middle. Those are my carb of choice! Add in some sourdough and shape them into rolls and you have the best little side dish to go with your dinner. Sourdough pretzel rolls are quick to whip up in a mixer, easy to shape and then take a little dip in a baking soda bath before being baked to perfection in the oven. Basically, sourdough pretzel rolls are the perfect roll for any pretzel lover. Toast them up with some cheese or enjoy them plain, you are going to love these soft sourdough pretzel rolls.
Important Ingredients in Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
Water: Use warm or room-temperature water.
Salt: Salt enhances the flavor, tempers fermentation and helps the structure of the rolls. Don’t leave it out.
Diastatic Malt Powder: This gives the pretzel rolls an evenly browned crust with good texture and promotes a good rise. If you don’t have diastatic malt powder, add a teaspoon of brown sugar to the dough instead.
Bread Flour: I almost always use bread flour (12.5% protein content) for any bread that I am kneading. The higher protein content and properly activating the gluten result in a lighter/springy baked good.
Butter: I always bake with unsalted butter. It gives me more control over the amount of salt in the recipe. This recipe calls for softened butter. You will add the butter in chunks into the dough during the mixing process.
Sourdough Sample Schedule for Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
A sample baking schedule helps me when baking with sourdough. Sourdough takes much longer to rise than traditional bread. This schedule helps me plan my bake.
Note: This schedule assumes the dough temperature will be maintained at 78-80+ degrees F throughout the process.
|Day 1||Mix Levain|
|8:00 PM – 8:00 AM||Mix levain (1:10:10) ratio, let sit overnight|
|Day 2||Bulk Fermentation/Shape/Proof/Bake|
|8:00 AM – 8:15 AM||Mix dough|
|8:15 AM – 12:15 PM||Bulk Fermentation|
|12:15 PM – 12:30 PM||End Bulk Fermentation (Optional cold bulk fermentation) and Shape Rolls|
|12:30 PM – 2:30 PM||Proof at 78-80 degrees F|
|2:30 PM – 3:30 PM||Refrigerated Rest|
|4:30 PM – 5:00 PM||Boil, Score and Bake|
What is Diastatic Malt Powder?
One ingredient you may not be familiar with in the list of ingredients is diastatic malt powder. This can be purchased online (affiliate link) or you may be able to find it in your local grocery store. The technical explanation is that diastatic malt powder contains the amylase enzyme, which consumes the starches in your pretzel dough and creates sugars. This helps create an evenly browned pretzel and good crust. Diastatic malt powder also promotes a good rise. The yeast has “more food” from the breakdown of starches into sugars, which gives your pretzels a better rise. When working with diastatic malt powder, a little goes a long way. Typically you only want about 1/2 a teaspoon of diastatic malt powder per cup of flour. This recipe only calls for a small amount. Too much diastatic malt powder and your pretzels will overproof quickly. If you don’t have diastatic malt powder you can add a teaspoon of brown sugar to the dough.
Mix the Levain
The night before you want to make the pretzels, build the levain. Take 13 grams of ripe/active sourdough starter and add 130 grams all-purpose flour and 130 grams of water. Stir it up, cover it and let it rise and peak overnight. This will take about 10-12 hours if the levain is kept at 78 degrees F. The next morning your levain should be bubbly and doubled in size – ready to use. Make sure to use both your starter and your levain at peak height.
Mixing Sourdough Pretzel Roll Dough
Once your levain is ready, add all of the dough ingredients to a stand mixer except the butter. Knead for about 5 minutes. The dough will initially look and feel a little stiff, but don’t worry. As you add in the softened butter, the dough will change into a smooth and silky dough. After kneading for 5-6 minutes, add in the softened butter a few chunks at a time. Knead for about 10 minutes until incorporated and smooth. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can do this by hand, it will require some elbow grease but is possible.
Cover the dough with a kitchen towel or shower cap. Place the dough in a warm place to bulk ferment for the first 4 hours. The temperature of the dough should be about 78 degrees F. If it’s not that temperature, it may need longer or shorter to bulk ferment. Watch for the dough to rise just a little bit and feel aerated before moving on to shaping.
Optional Cold Fermentation: After the bulk fermentation, you can refrigerate the dough up to a couple of days. When you’re ready to use it, take it out of the fridge and shape the rolls. Give them a little extra time to rise before baking to compensate for the cold refrigerator.
Shaping and Proofing Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
After the bulk fermentation, it’s time to shape the rolls. Dump the dough on a countertop and use a bench scraper to separate the roll dough into 16 pieces. Take each piece of dough and pull/pinch up the sides until it forms a ball. Roll the ball on the counter, holding your hand in a cupping shape (see video here) to seal the balls and create tension.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and place 8 balls of dough on each baking sheet. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm 78-80 degree F place for about 2-3 hours until the dough balls are puffed up, airy and light. I like to place my pans in the oven with the light on (don’t turn the oven on!) to keep them warm during this proofing period.
Baking Soda or Lye Bath
Once the rolls have proofed, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Before starting either of these methods, take a minute to preheat your oven. Once the rolls go through their “bath,” they should be scored and immediately baked. A baking soda or lye bath is what gives pretzels their iconic flavor. A baking soda bath is more common with home bakers because it’s easier and doesn’t use any chemicals. A lye bath gives a beautiful flavor and color to the pretzels that is hard to get any other way. It’s up to you which you choose to do. I do both depending on my mood and how much I want to wear safety glasses that day!
Baking Soda Method: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 6 Tablespoons of baking soda once the water is boiling. The water should be vigorously boiling, not just a simmer before boiling the dough. Taking a few sourdough pretzel rolls at a time, place them in the boiling water for 60-90 seconds each. Remove the rolls and place them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Lye Method: Put on protective gear (goggles/rubber gloves). To a large bowl, add 5 cups of water and 3 Tablespoons of food grade lye. Stir together with a spatula until dissolved. Dip each pretzel roll in the lye solution for 15-20 seconds. Place pretzel roll on the parchment-lined baking sheet to bake. Bake immediately.
Disclaimer: lye is caustic. Always use safety glasses and rubber gloves. Wear long sleeves/pants and closed toed-shoes. Use paper towel to wipe up spills and throw them away. Rinse everything that touches lye with large amounts of water. Be sure to wash your hands and arms throughout and if you do feel anything burning, re-wash wherever it burns with soap and water and rinse dry. Lye should not be around children or pets. Lye comes in a large jar and you dilute it with water making it safe to consume ONCE BAKED.
Score and Baking Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
Once the pretzels have been soaked or boiled, take a bread lame or sharp knife and make two slashes in each roll. Sprinkle the top of the sourdough pretzel roll with some flaky sea salt or pretzel salt for the perfect flavor. Bake the pretzels immediately at 475 degrees for 15 minutes. Let cool completely (or mostly) before enjoying!
Looking for More Delicious Pretzel Recipes?
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I store extra sourdough pretzel rolls?
I let the pretzel rolls cool completely and then store them in an airtight container or ziplock bag. Let them thaw or warm them up when you’re ready to eat them.
Can I make this with bubbly/active sourdough starter instead of the levain method?
You can. I like using a levain method because it makes sure the natural yeast is very active and strong. But this recipe uses a 100% hydration levain with no extra flour, so you can substitute ripe/bubbly/active sourdough starter for the levain with no issues.
I would like to make larger rolls. What do you suggest for bun or sandwich size?
This recipe is shaped into 16 dinner rolls. For a larger bun-size pretzel roll, I would shape into 10 or 12 rolls.
Do you prefer the lye method or baking soda method?
Truthfully, they are both good. The baking soda method is what most people will feel comfortable using. If you are really looking for the best pretzel flavor and coloring, it’s worth trying out the lye method.
Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
Levain (1:10:10, overnight/ready in 10-12 hours at 78 degrees F)
- 13 grams sourdough starter ripe/bubbly/active
- 130 grams all-purpose flour
- 130 grams water
Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
- 250 grams levain
- 430 grams water
- 20 grams salt
- 3 grams diastatic malt powder see recipe notes
- 850 grams bread flour see recipe notes
- 70 grams unsalted butter softened
- sprinkle of flaky sea salt
Levain (1:10:10, overnight/ready in 10-12 hours at 78 degrees F)
- The night before making the pretzels, mix together 13 grams of ripe sourdough starter with 130 grams flour and 130 grams water. Cover and let rest overnight until bubbly, active and ready to use.
Sourdough Pretzel Roll Dough
- The next morning, to the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the risen levain, water, flour, salt and malt powder using a dough hook. Knead for 5 minutes. The dough will be thick and you may think you've added too much flour. Don't worry. It will soften when you add the butter.
- Knead for about 5 minutes. Then add the softened butter, 1/2 Tablespoon at a time and knead for 5-8 minutes until completely incorporated. The dough will feel silky smooth.
- Bulk Fermentation: Let dough rise for 4-5 hours at 78-80 degrees F, until puffed up and aerated. After the bulk fermentation the dough can be placed in the refrigerator overnight or up to 2 days before shaping and making the rolls.
- Shaping: Dump the dough on a countertop and use a bench scraper to separate the roll dough into 16 pieces. Take each piece of dough and pull/pinch up the sides until it forms a ball. Roll the ball on the counter, holding your hand in a cupping shape (see video here) to seal the balls and create tension.
- Proofing: Line two pans with parchment paper. Place eight balls of dough on each pan. Cover the dough balls with a kitchen towel and let proof in a warm (78-80+ degree) place for 2-3 hours. By the end of 2-3 hours, the dough should be puffed up, aerated and risen.
Baking Sourdough Pretzel Rolls
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose which method you are going to use to dip the pretzels.
- Baking Soda Method: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 6 Tablespoons baking soda. Place pretzel rolls in the boiling baking soda water and boil for 60-90 seconds per pretzel. Remove pretzels from the boiling water and place on the baking sheets.
- Lye Method: Put on protective goggles and rubber gloves. Lye can burn your skin or eyes. It should not be around children or pets. To a large bowl, add 5 cups of water. Add 3 Tablespoons of food grade lye (affiliate link). Stir together with a spatula. Dip each pretzel in the lye solution for 15-20 seconds per pretzel. Place pretzel rolls back on the parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake immediately after the lye or baking soda bath. Bake for 15 minutes at 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Let cool completely (or mostly) before enjoying.