I have been obsessed with pretzel rolls since I tried one when we lived in Virginia a few years ago. I've purchased them from bakeries many times, but never attempted to make my own. I always thought they would be too difficult to pull off.
The other day I came across a recipe for soft pretzel sticks and I asked my friend Jenni Field from Pastry Chef Online if I could use the recipe to make pretzel rolls. She told me yes it would work, but she had a yummy pretzel roll recipe on her website if I wanted to check it out. Since EVERY recipe I've ever tried from Jenni has been amazing, I decided to go with her's.
I had to make a few tweaks because I didn't have all of the ingredients and was impatient, wanting to make these rolls ASAP. The main difference was I didn't have lye on hand to create a lye bath, so I did some research to find the best alternative.
While most people use a straight baking soda bath instead of a lye bath, I found this 2010 New York Times article written by Harold McGee “For Old-Fashioned Flavor, Bake the Baking Soda” describing a different technique. You bake the baking soda to “cook up a more muscular and versatile alkali” that is “strong enough to make a good lye substitute for pretzels”.
Harold's recipe instructs you to “…dissolve 2/3 cup of the baked soda (about 100 grams) in 2 cups of water, immerse the formed raw pretzels in this solution for three to four minutes, rinse off the excess dipping solution in a large bowl of plain water, and bake.”
I don't know why, but I was a little leery of leaving the rolls in the solution for that long. I read several recipes that called for boiling the dough in a larger amount of water and dipping the dough for 30 seconds per side. Since this is how I make homemade bagels, I went with this option.
Ankarsrum Original Stand Mixer
I was excited to finally get to use my dough hook on my Ankarsrum Original Stand Mixer. At first I was a little confused as to how this odd-looking dough hook would actually mix the dough. But as you can see from their demonstration video below, it works perfectly. And because the top of the mixer is open, it makes adding ingredients super easy and MESS FREE! You can even add the flour WHILE THE MIXER IS RUNNING. It won't explode all over!
The Ankarsrum Original Stand Mixer has a powerful and quiet 600-watt motor that will make easy work of any dough you want to create. It has an awesome scraper attachment that is used along with the dough hook (or roller attachment) that scrapes the sides of the mixing bowl while the dough hook simultaneously mixes the dough. So there is no need to stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl!
If you want to check out the Ankarsrum Original Stand Mixer for yourself, take a look here.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did. These pretzel rolls went perfectly with my Avocado Overload Chicken Nacho Burger.
How to Make Pretzel Rolls from Scratch
The Soda Bath
Finishing the Rolls
Homemade Pretzel Buns
Recipe adapted slightly from Jenni Field Pastry Chef Online's Traditional Pretzel Bun. Jenni says “These traditional pretzel buns get their deeply burnished crust from a dip in a lye solution before baking. You can use baking soda, but the results you can get with lye are in my opinion far superior. Please be sure to read the precautions and watch the videos I made of me dipping the pretzels in the lye solution before getting started.”
- Prep Time: 3 hours
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes
- Yield: 9 1x
- 11–11.25 oz room temperature water (start with 11 oz and only add another teaspoon or so of water if things seem to dry. This dough should be pretty firm and not at all sticky.)
- 1/2 oz malt syrup or dark corn syrup. You can also use molasses if you'd like.
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus extra to sprinkle on the dough before baking
- 22 oz all purpose flour
- 2 oz melted butter
- 1/2 tablespoon (.25 oz) active dry yeast
- Egg wash (1 egg with a tablespoon of milk)
To Make the Dough:
- Put all the ingredients in the bowl of your mixer in the order listed.
- Fit your mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed until all the flour is incorporated.
- Increase speed to medium-low to medium and knead until the dough is smooth, not at all sticky, and nicely elastic, about 10-12 minutes. Check it after 2-3 and add the tiniest bit of extra water if the dough seems too stiff.
- Once kneaded, shape the dough into a ball, and place it back in the mixer bowl that you have sprayed with oil.
- Spray the dough with pan spray or brush it with some oil, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a dry, unfloured surface and press out the gases.
- Divide the dough into 9 even pieces (if you have a scale, scale them at 4 oz each).
For the Soda Bath*
“…spread a layer of soda on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake it at 250 to 300 degrees for an hour. You’ll lose about a third of the soda’s weight in water and carbon dioxide, but you gain a stronger alkali. Keep baked soda in a tightly sealed jar to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the air. And avoid touching or spilling it. It’s not lye, but it’s strong enough to irritate.”
- Dip each proofed roll in a boiling mixture of 10 cups of water with 2/3 cup of baked soda for about 30 seconds.
- Flip over and boil for another 30 seconds.
- Using a slotted spoon or spider, remove the rolls.
- Let drain on paper towel for a few seconds.
- Then place them on a greased, parchment covered cookie sheet.
- Slash the tops of the rolls in a decorative pattern (a cross or two or three parallel lines, for example). Be careful not to slice too deeply, like I did on the first few.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until almost doubled (or just about hamburger bun size), about 45 minutes to an hour.
- About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375F.
- Remove the plastic wrap. Brush each roll with an egg wash and sprinkle on the kosher salt.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes.
- Rotate the pan and bake an additional 2-5 minutes or until they are very deeply burnished and the internal temperature reads 200F-205F.
- Remove from oven, then use a spatula to transfer the rolls to a rack to cool completely.
*While Jenni recommended using a Lye Bath, I didn't have any on hand and didn't want to wait for the Lye to be delivered before making the rolls so I used a baked soda bath.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you choose to use a Lye Bath, please watch Jenni's instructional videos here.
For the Lye Bath
- Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper, and then spray the parchment paper with pan spray. You do not want your pretzels to stick.
- Make sure you're wearing eye protection and that you are wearing 1-2 pair of gloves.
- In a bowl, measure out the water.
- Carefully measure the lye crystals into a small bowl or cup and then slowly pour them into the water.
- Stir carefully with a metal spoon until all the crystals are dissolved. Rinse the spoon.
- Using a spider or your gloved hand, carefully lower two pretzel rolls into the water. Let soak for 45-seconds to a minute. Gently flip them over and allow to soak an additional 45 seconds to 1 minute.
- Using a slotted spoon or spider, carefully remove the rolls from the lye solution. Let drain on paper towel for a few seconds and then place them on the cookie sheet.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 459kcal
- Sugar: 2g
- Sodium: 354mg
- Fat: 8g
- Saturated Fat: 4g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 83g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 13g
- Cholesterol: 14mg
Next time I am going to use the Lye Bath. As you can see from the photo below, Jenni's pretzel rolls look AMAZING! Not that mine weren't tasty, but her's are the real deal!