These are no different to the knotted pretzels you can get, and if you want to please make this recipe into knot shapes.
The key to a pretzel is its slightly malty taste and it’s very dark crust colour. The crust is chewy, rather than crunchy and inside is soft and fluffy.
The key to the colour is a quick water bath for the proved roll just before baking. The water has, ideally, had lye added to it but bicarbonate of soda makes a reasonable (if not great alternative. (Please see the difference between the two photos on this page – the main pic of oval rolls, above, was doused in baked bicarbonate of soda and are very dark and the knotted sourdough pretzels below were dunked in just bicarbonate of soda in water – much lighter but still darker than a normal roll).
If you want a half-way house, bake a tray of bicarbonate of soda in an oven set at 100C fan / 120C conventional for 60 to 90 minutes. Let it cool and use – there will be some left over for another two or three batches if you’ve baked a whole pot of the stuff. Please note: it’s a good idea to put it back in the original pot, but tear off the original packaging and replace with a clear label immediately for ‘lye’. This will stop you mistaking it for normal bicarb in future baking projects. In fact, I store mine in a completely different place from my normal bicarbonate and other leaveners.
I have made these with lye water in the past (I now can’t get hold of lye water: I used to get it from one of the local Asian supermarkets, as it’s used when making ramen from scratch, but sadly they’ve all stopped stocking it. You may be able to source it online) and I’ve made them with both just bicarb and with this baked bicarb/fake lye.
Bicarb is good enough, but if you can be bothered using baked bicarb it does make the rolls go that little bit darker. Just be warned that handling baked bicarbonate of soda/fake lye or proper lye is all very caustic and is a skin and eye irritant. Keep away from children and handle it carefully yourself. Douse with a lot of water if you get it on your skin. If you’re at all terrified, just use normal bicarbonate of soda and don’t fuss that the colour isn’t quite deep as it should be.
- Two large baking sheets
- Baking paper/parchment
- Large bowl
- Large saucepan
- Fish slice, large slotted spoon or similar
- Cling film
- Measuring jug
- Plain flour – 250g
- Strong white flour – 250g
- Milk – 145 ml/g
- Water – 145 ml/g
- Fine salt – 1 teaspoon
- Dark drown sugar/Demerara – 30g
- Malt extract – 1 (generous) teaspoon
- Dried yeast – 7g
- Rock salt for garnishing (if required)
- Vegetable or light olive oil just for greasing
- Extra flour for a little dusting
Ingredients for the water bath
- Saucepan full of water
- 3 tablespoons of either bicarbonate of soda or baked bicarbonate (see notes above). If you have managed to get some lye water, please follow the instructions on the bottle for the amount of water you’re using)
- Measure out the milk and water together and warm slightly (you can do this by adding much warmer water to cold milk) – the liquid needs to be tepid
- Soften the butter
- Weigh out and then mix all the ingredients (except the oil) in the large bowl, bring together into a rough mess
- Tip out on to a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough comes together into a smooth ball, about 8-10 minutes
- Lightly oil the bottom of the bowl and put the dough back in it to prove
- Cover with cling film or a linen tea towel
- While the dough is proving you should prepare the two baking sheets with a layer of parchment/greaseproof/baking paper
- Lightly oil the surface of the paper – the dough is quite sticky when proving and can be a job to get off the paper
- If you want to make the baked bicarbonate, you could do this now (see notes above)
- When the dough has just about doubled in size, tip it out onto a surface and divide into six or eight equal portions (depending on how big you want your rolls to be)
Form the dough portions into small oval rolls or pretzel knots (to do this, roll out into a sausage shape with thin ends and a fat middle, shape into a crescent and then twist the ends over each other once and place each end on the opposite side)
- Place the rolls on the prepared baking trays and cover with lightly oiled cling film
- Leave to rise until they are almost doubled in size and are almost springing back when lightly pressed with a finger tip (ie there’s about 15 – 20 of prove left)
- Put your oven on to heat up – to 200C fan or 220C conventional
- Fill your saucepan up with water and add the bicarbonate of soda and bring to the boil
- Once boiling, turn down to a simmer
- Carefully lower one of the rolls into the water and let float for about 5 seconds, flip over with the slotted spoon/fish slice and let the other side lie in the water for another 5 seconds
- Remove the roll and place back on the parchment
- Repeat with the rest of the rolls
- Make one large slash in the thickest part of the roll if you have made knots and two or three slashes in each oval roll
- Sprinkle with the rock salt if you want – this is particularly traditional on the knotted rolls
- Bake in the oven for 16-18 minutes
- The rolls should sound fairly hollow when tapped on the bottom (not quite so much as for a loaf) and will be a really dark brown. By the way, be brave and leave the rolls in the oven – your normal instinct will be to take them out early because they look done! Pretzels are very darkly coloured, not burnt
- Leave to cool, split and serve with something traditional like a Swiss cheese and Bavarian ham or whatever you like
One thought on “Pretzel rolls”
Oh boy do these look gorgeous!