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Soft Sourdough Pretzels

European-style soft, sourdough pretzels made with baking soda or lye and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. Chewy, soft and delicious!
Course Bread, Snack
Cuisine American, German
Servings 12 pretzels

Ingredients
  

Leaven

  • 1 Tablespoon ripe sourdough starter
  • 150 grams all purpose flour
  • 150 grams water

Sourdough Pretzel Dough

  • 850 grams bread flour see note
  • 420 grams water
  • 250 grams leaven
  • 19 grams salt
  • 3 grams diastatic malt powder
  • 68 grams unsalted butter softened

Lye or Baking Soda Solution

  • 3 Tablespoons food grade lye OR
  • 6 Tablespoons baking soda
  • flaky sea salt for topping

Instructions
 

Leaven

  • The night before making the pretzels, mix together 1 Tablespoon of ripe sourdough starter with 150 grams flour and 150 grams water. Cover and let rest overnight.

Sourdough Pretzel Dough

  • The next morning, in the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the risen leaven, water, flour, salt and malt powder using a dough hook. The dough will be very thick, almost crumbly at first, but will come together as you add the butter.
  • Within the first minute or two of kneading, add the softened butter, 1/2 Tablespoon at a time and knead for 5-6 minutes until completely incorporated.
  • Let dough rise for 4-6 hours until puffy and just about doubled in size. After the first hour, perform one stretch and fold: reach down onto the side of the dough, pull the dough up and stretch it over the top, pushing it back down onto the other side of the dough. Rotate the bowl and repeat two or three more times as you go around the bowl. The warmth of your dough/kitchen will determine the length of rise time, though this is typically 4-6 hours.
  • After 4-6 hours, pre-shape the dough into 12 equal-sized balls, cover and rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  • Shape the pretzels by rolling them into a long rope. Begin rolling in the middle and then easing your way out. The middle of the "rope" should be thicker than the ends. Pull the thinner ends up, twist and press down into the pretzel. (LINK to video). See recipe note for pretzel rolls.
  • Place pretzels on a parchment lined baking sheet. Stick in the fridge for 1 hour.

Baking Sourdough Pretzels

  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • 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 pretzels back on the parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Baking Soda Method: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add 6 Tablespoons baking soda. Place pretzels in the boiling baking soda water and boil for 90 seconds per pretzel. Remove pretzels from the boiling water and place on the baking sheets.
  • Score the bottom half, thick part of the pretzel with a sharp knife or bread lame.
  • Sprinkle with pretzel salt or my favorite flaky sea salt.
  • Bake for 15 minutes at 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Let cool or enjoy warm. For longer-term storage, freeze pretzels in a ziplock bag and re-heat when ready to eat.

Notes

Bread Flour: To substitute for bread flour, use 810 grams all purpose flour and 40 grams vital wheat gluten.
Using Lye: Lye is caustic. Always use safety glasses and rubber gloves. Wear long sleeves, pants and closed-toed shoes. Wipe up any spills with paper towels and throw away. Rinse everything that touched the lye with large amounts of water and wash hands and arms thoroughly. If you feel anything burning, re-wash affected area with soap and water, rinse and dry.
Shaping: These pretzels can also be shaped into logs or rolls for a traditional "Laugenbrot" roll. Roll up into a cylinder or shape into a roll. Proceed with recipe. Add a few minutes to the baking time so they are baked all the way through.
Keyword pretzel, sourdough