Guest Blog Post: Pretzel Rolls!

March 26, 2010

My good friend Kaleb takes over the blog today. He and I (and my sister, too) all baked these Pretzel Rolls last week. He writes about them below and shows off his excellence culinary skills. He’s great in the kitchen, especially when covered with flour.

Take it away, Kaleb…

To lye or not to lye…that is the question.

Luckily, there are not a lot of morals involved in baking. Well, that is, as long as you’re not the mother in Flowers in the Attic. But let’s think of softer memories filled with soft pretzels and beautiful german blue-eyed boys in lederhosen. A few years ago, I lunched at Rockit restaurant and bar in downtown Chicago and encountered a burger on a pretzel bun…a match that titillates my taste buds to this day. So with a little prodding from Mr. Klonsky, I set out to recreate a soft pretzel roll in my humble kitchen.

With a little research (thank you Al Gore and the World Wide Web), I came across a couple of blogs offering pretzel recipes and more debating whether or not a lye bath was necessary to capture the authenticity of the German delight. Lye is a caustic material and highly corrosive—so not for the faint of heart nor the amateur baker such as myself. Me without my hazmat suit nor a fashionable pair of goggles means that I had to search for another approach. Luckily I came across two blogs (thefreshloaf.com; http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Buttery-Soft-Pretzels/Detail.aspx) offering less daunting alternatives with promising results. Taking the best from both blogs, I came up with a great pretzel roll recipe that I’m hoping you’ll enjoy as much as I do…

Pretzel Rolls

Adapted from thefreshloaf.com and allrecipes.com

Serving: 8 rolls

The night before: create a pâté fermentée —this will help deliver a little more flavor to your pretzels; however, it’s not essential. If you choose not to use it, just add the same ingredients to the main recipe that follows.

Pâté Fermentée by Peter Reinhart; The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) unbleached bread flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (7 ounces) water, at room temperature


  • Reinhart suggests half all-purpose and half bread flour. Look for bread flour at your local grocer or you can purchase online. I prefer King Arthur Bread Flour. And secretly dream of going to their school in Vermont.
  • The suggested amount of water is ¾ cups plus 2 tbsp—I definitely needed the extra 2..not too sticky or tacky…just right.


Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until the dough comes together and knead until it goes from a sticky mess to a smooth ball – this usually takes about 10 minutes. For kneading, try to stretch the dough to activate the glutens and start forming the protein strands—the foundation of great breads. Once done transfer to a lightly oiled (hello, PAM), sealable container (larger Ziploc or Gladware), rub the dough against the oiled bowl or container to lighly coat the dough with oil (or you can just spritz it a couple of times with PAM), seal container and let rise for about 1 hour at room temperature or until it expands to 1 1/2 times its size.

Punch down the dough lightly and return to the sealed container and place into the refrigerator. Keep in the refrigerator overnight or for 8 hours. The pre-ferment will be usable for up to 3 days or you can freeze the mixture for up to 3 months.

The next day:

Pâté Fermentée (from the day before)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees, which is 1 minute in my microwave)
1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
¼ cup coarse or kosher sea salt for topping

  • Get out the pate fermentee from the day prior and let stand at room temperature for around an hour. Carefully transfer the dough to a cutting board, cut up the dough into little pieces (about 1 to 2 inches thick). Set pieces aside.
  • In a microwave safe container or in a small sauce pan, warm the 1 cup of milk till it registers 100-110 degrees F, stir in brown sugar and stir until dissolved. Once mixed, stir in the 1 tsp active dry yeast (look for jars at your local grocer or you can use 1 packet active dry). In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in warm water. Let stand about 8 – 10 minutes until there’s a nice head on the mixture and it’s fragrant with the smell of beer.
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour and salt. Make a well in the center; take the pieces of the pâté fermentée and sprinkle on top of the flour mixture. Now add the yeast mixture. Mix all and form into a ball. If the mixture is dry, add one or two tablespoons of water; likewise if the mixture is wet, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour over at a time until the dough is easily tacky but not sticking to your hands. Knead the dough until smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or lid and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Make sure that your container is large enough to handle the additional volume.
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  • In a large bowl, bring the water to a rolling boil and dissolve the baking soda.
  • When dough is risen and doubled in size, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and let rest for 20 minutes.
  • While dough is resting, create an egg wash by combining 1 egg with 2 tbsp cold water in a bowl. Whisk the mixture such that the mixture develops a little foam on top and set aside.
  • Dip each pretzel one at a time into the baking soda solution for 30 seconds be sure to turn the ball to cover both sides with the solution. Remove the ball from the solution with a meshed strainer or slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet or Silpat.
  • Brush the egg mixture over each roll and sprinkle with coarse sea salt or kosher salt.
  • Score the top of each roll by making an X…doing so will ensure a great shape of the roll given that the dough will rise quickly in the oven.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes (depending on your oven), until well browned—think delicious dark pretzel brown
  • Transfer the rolls to a cooling rack and let stand for at least 5 minutes (if you can)

You can use the rolls as a side with sauerkraut and sausage, a snack with a smorgasbord of gourmet mustards, or even as the foundation on a great burger. But whatever you do, eat ‘em while they’re hot…

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