How to make your own Pretzel Buns
by eat in my kitchen
When I made my Bavarian sandwich with pretzel buns and Obatzda camembert spread last week I completely underestimated how many people would actually be interested in a recipe for the buns rather than the spread (which is absolutely delicious nonetheless!). I bought the pretty Laugenbrötchen (their German name) which I used for the recipe from my favourite pretzel bakery in my area which, in my opinion, can compete with the products from their origin in the south of Germany. However, there is an ongoing discussion about the pretzel’s (and the bun’s) quality produced here in Berlin, and if you ask anyone from the Bavarian or Swabian region, they will all agree that it’s impossible to find acceptable results anywhere in this city. I disagree! I lived in the South, I still regularly enjoy some of the best pretzel buns from my step father’s Swabian hometown Stuttgart, an unchallenged stronghold of pretzels, so I consider myself an experienced critic. The buns you saw last week on the photos were soft and spongy inside, they taste slightly buttery, wrapped in a thin brown crust with coarse sea salt sprinkles. That’s all I can ask for!
Motivated by the last sandwich, excited and a bit nervous, I made a brave decision a few days ago, I wanted to make my own pretzel buns! I started some research, learnt about lye, washing and baking soda solutions for the crust, the right yeast dough mixture and the final shaping of the buns and here are my conclusions:
The dough has to be made with a bit of butter for the rich taste, it has to rise twice and once the buns are shaped with the right technique (which I describe in the recipe), they have to cook in boiling water mixed with baking soda for one minute before baking, basically like bagels. The soda solution provides a high ph-value, not as high and strong as lye solution which is often used in professional bakeries, but it’s safer and creates a similar browning effect.
When I pulled a piece off my first warm pretzel bun freshly out of my own oven, I was impressed, the texture was right, the crust perfect and the taste was fantastic. I also made a few pretzels which were nice and juicy and not dry (which I don’t like at all), but here I still have to improve. The look wasn’t right, I know this is not so relevant and, usually, not important for me at all as long as it pleases my taste buds, but we’re talking about pretzels! The top part with the knot wasn’t slim enough. They looked quite puffed up and out of shape, but they tasted amazing with some butter spread on them so I forgot about that completely. I prefer buns anyway!
For 10 pretzel buns you need
plain flour, white spelt (type 630) or wheat, 500g / 1 pound
dry yeast 1 sachet (7g / 1/4 ounce)
salt 2 teaspoons
water, luke warm, 300ml / 10 ounces
butter, melted and cooled, 40g / 1.5 ounces
baking soda 3 tablespoons, for the solution, to boil the buns before baking
coarse sea salt, for the topping
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Mix the water with the melted butter (the mixture should be lukewarm) and add to the dry flour-mixture. Mix with the dough hooks of the mixer for a few minutes, it shouldn’t be too sticky, add more flour if necessary. Continue kneading and punching with your hands for a few minutes until you have an elastic dough ball. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it rise in the warm oven (35°C / 95°F) for 60 minutes (top/ bottom heat and not fan-assisted!).
Punch the dough down, take it out and knead for 1 minute. Divide it in 10 portions, each about 80g / 2 3/4 ounces. Dust your hands with flour, put a portion of dough on the palm of your hand and roll with the other hand, holding it like a dome. Turn the dough for about 1o seconds on the flat hand until its top is round and firm. This process builds up surface tension and prevents the buns from becoming flat. Continue with the remaining dough. If you make pretzels, roll each portion into a 50cm / 20″ long sausage shape, the ends should be thinner than the rest, and twist to a pretzel shape. Cover the buns/ pretzels with a tea towel and let them rise for 20 minutes in a warm place.
Set your oven to 220°C / 430°F top/ bottom heat and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large pot, bring 1l / 4 cups of water and the baking soda to the boil, watch it as it will start bubbling. The pot should be wide enough for 2 buns to fit in, they don’t need to be completely covered with the solution.
Gently put two buns with a slotted ladle into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Mind that they don’t stick to the bottom and turn them after 30 seconds. Take them out after a minute and put them on the lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and continue with the remaining buns. Bake for 16 minutes or until golden brown, the pretzels need just 12 minutes.
If you want to freeze the baked buns / pretzels, don’t sprinkle them with salt.