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Sourdough Soft Pretzels

My dear friend, Ann Davidson, hinted that she really would like some of those sourdough pretzels that I had mentioned before.  So, with that thought germinating in my mind for about a month, I finally decided to make some.

Soft Pretzels are fun to make. You get to be a kid again, rolling dough, forming shapes and having a good time. Sourdough Pretzels are fabulous the day they are made, but because of the nature of sourdough and salt, they quickly become tough and soggy. So plan on eating and sharing them the first day and if you have some leftover, don’t store them in a plastic bag, but a paper sack.

Sourdough Soft Pretzels

  • Sourdough starter @ 100% hydration – 12 oz/340g
  • water – 18 oz/510g
  • oil – .5 oz/14g
  • salt- .6 oz/17g
  • bread or all purpose flour – 2lbs 2oz/963g

This will make about 4 lbs/1845g of dough at 60% hydration. I made 21 pretzels at 3 oz each. So if you do not want to make that many pretzels, half the recipe amounts.

This year, I have been working on my new book, “100% Sourdough.” It will be all about sourdough using 100% hydration starter and will use a dough trough for mixing the dough.

My book, “Discovering Sourdough,” utilizes 166% hydration starter and uses a dough mixer. So the recipes you will be seeing on my blog will be using the 100% hydration starter and a mixing bowl or trough for mixing your dough.

To continue:

Mix all of the ingredients starting at the top of the ingredient list and working your way down. Add the flour last. Then get your hands in there and stir the ingredients together well until you form a sticky dough. I substituted 4 oz of a whole wheat starter in place of 4 oz of the white stater to obtain a more rustic flavor.

This is called morphing(I made that up!). You will find morphing in my downloadable book as well. When you substitute part of the starter using a whole wheat starter or a rye starter, you can introduce some extra rustic flavor.

Since the starter has already fermented the whole grains, the phytates, which can make grains harder to digest, have started to break down.  You also introduce more enzyme activity for color and sweetness. Using a rye starter can make the dough stickier.

So, anyway to get on with soft pretzels….

The dough is now made and needs to be fermented. You can do these pretzels two ways. Start early in the morning and make a one day dough, baking the pretzels the same day, or make up your dough and then refrigerate overnight, baking them the next day.

Done the same day, the pretzels are somewhat softer and not as tough later on when they age. Done the next day, they have more flavor. So decide which you prefer, or try both ways and see what you prefer.

If you intend to refrigerate your dough, start your dough later in the day and ferment for 3 to 4 hours, folding the dough twice during the ferment time. Then place the dough in the refrigerator overnight.  Next morning allow the dough to warm up for two hours before shaping.

If you wish to do a one day dough and bake, start your dough early in the morning and ferment for 5 – 6 hours (fold the dough 3 – 4 times during ferment), shaping and baking them in the afternoon.

When you are ready to shape pretzels:

Divide your dough into pieces weighing 3 oz for a regular size large pretzel or 4 oz for a huge pretzel. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes and then roll the dough into long snakes about 18″ – 20″ long and shape into a pretzel: (I used spray oil on the table surface so the dough wouldn’t stick)

For a traditional shape, shape the dough like the first picture above, and then flip it over onto the rounded side. You can shape them however you like and have fun twisting them into wierd shapes if you like, especially if you have children helping you.

Then place your pretzels onto an oiled parchment paper or pan to proof. I proofed the pretzels for 2 hours. When ready, turn your oven on to 425 degrees and preheat. Then get a large pan or large skillet and bring  2 quarts of water to a simmering boil. Add 5 oz of baking soda and . 6 oz of salt (about one tablespoon) to the boiling water and step back because the water will foam up when you do so.

Next, I added three pretzels at a time to the simmering hot soda/salt water and allowed them to boil gently for one 30 seconds on each side. Then using a slotted spatula, take out the pretzels and arrange them on an oiled pan.

When your pan is filled with pretzels, make a mixture of one egg and one tablespoon of water (beat together well) and using a pastry brush spread the egg mixture over the top of each pretzel, then sprinkle with a coarse baking salt. I only had flaked salt and it worked good, but tended to dissolve into the egg mixture. You can take some rock salt and pound it until it is the size you would like(sift it as well). You can also try Margarita salt.

Bake the pretzels until they are a nice dark brown color which should take about 20 minutes. Take them off the pan immediately or they will try to stick.

Enjoy them with cream cheese, butter, sharp cheese or fancy mustard. We also slice the pretzels in half and stuff them full of lunchmeat and cheeses. I know Jeremy Shapiro doesn’t like mustard on his pretzels… but I do! He had a great post on making pretzels earlier in the year, on his informative blog, Stir the Pots.

Try the pretzels, your family will be very impressed!

By the way, my website is now completely new as is my blog. I did a redirect to my new blog (this blog you are reading)from my old blog, but the redirect will expire. So update your bookmarks. And if you have linked to my blog from your blog or site, please update your link as well.

This post will be submitted to Susan’s wonderful blog Wild Yeast/Yeastspotting.

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  1. MikeMike
    March 31, 2017    

    I tried this recipe out and I ran into some trouble. I found that the dough was too elastic which made the pretzels difficult to shape. Then I found that they stuck to my pan during proofing. I greased the pan with copious amounts of butter, but they stuck anyway.

    I’m not quite sure what went wrong. Maybe I overworked the dough?

  2. Mindy SpaidMindy Spaid
    November 16, 2012    

    Hi! Thanks for this recipe! The family had fun making them together. My dough fermented on the counter for 8 hours because I got busy during the day. After that, I followed your recipe to a T. The dough was hard to work with and kept popping back when I tried to shape it, especially if i laid it on oiled parchment paper. Is it because I let it sit too long? I added flour as I shaped them and that helped some. We ended up going with braids because they were easier to form with my very springy dough. They turned out pretty good, but not quite as pretty as yours pictured. The crust is a bit mushy, but they did brown and the inside is soft. Also, the baking soda flavor is very strong. I wonder if I should use less or none next time. Maybe the maple syrup would be a sweeter touch instead, as you mentioned.

    Any tips on how to make the dough easier to work with and how to get a better crust? I’m a first timer, so I’m sure most of my mistakes are not due to your recipe, but to my novice abilities. :). Thank you!

  3. March 3, 2011    

    Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.

  4. northwestsourdoughnorthwestsourdough
    December 26, 2010    

    Hi Jerry, that is .6 oz of salt(point six) and five ounces of baking soda. Yes a whole five ounces!

    Have fun!


  5. Jerry KnutsonJerry Knutson
    December 18, 2010    

    Hi in Your Pretzel recipe you say 5 ozs. baking soda and 6 ozs. salt, do you mean .5 & .6 thats about a tablespoon. I sure like your web site i have tryed a lot of your recipes,vary good.


  6. HarryJerryHarryJerry
    December 18, 2010    

    I sure like your web site we have used alot of your recipes.in your soft pretzel recipe you say add 5 ozs. baking soda & 6 ozs. salt, then you say about a tablespoon I sure am glad you added that tablespoon part or I would have put in to much salt and soda Ihaven;t baked them yet looking forward to eating them. Thank you for the good stuff


  7. RainaRaina
    December 14, 2010    

    Well, made the pretzels a while back – they were very good. I had to add more flour than what was called for in the recipe, though (must not be 100% hydration after all), but it worked. Next time I’ll be sure to use a ‘thicker’ starter so to have that tangy goodness permeated thoughout and not add extra ‘tasteless’ flour. The kids thought they were wonderful. My daughter helped me shape the pretzels and the boys helped eat them… they ask me sometimes when we can make them again! Perhaps, I’ll try par-baking and freezing them next time, just to have them around when we have a craving. Thanks again!

  8. northwestsourdoughnorthwestsourdough
    November 8, 2010    

    Well bones, I look forward to seeing your new blog all about scrumptious gluten-free baking. It’s in the family, you can’t avoid it 🙂

  9. Robin...aka BonesRobin...aka Bones
    November 8, 2010    

    You’re welcome. My baking? It’s going. I’m back to square one with my gluten free diet. My trial period with eating gluten again proved that my body still has a problem with it. My symptoms all started to return so I put myself back on a gluten free diet. At least this time around I have a leg up since I’ve done it before…starting back at square one, but not going in blind. Gluten free…it’s the life for me. 🙂 Your sourdough creations look as scrumptious as ever!

  10. northwestsourdoughnorthwestsourdough
    November 7, 2010    

    Ah Bones! Thanks for the recommend. How is your baking going? Hugs back 🙂

  11. northwestsourdoughnorthwestsourdough
    November 6, 2010    

    Hi Ruhlman, well since soda or lye is the traditional taste, I am not sure you can obtain it another way. You could try just salt in the poaching water, I have also added malt syrup to the water. I found the malt syrup to impart a nice flavor but it wasn’t really what I preferred. Which sister?
    I have five 🙂

    • RobinRobin
      November 7, 2010    

      Hi Ter-bear! I told Mr. Ruhlman about your website. I stumbled upon his website when I was searching for a gluten free pizza crust and saw in another post he had mentioned working with sourdough.

      Robin 🙂

  12. November 6, 2010    

    How do you get the traditional pretzel taste without lye or baking soda dip?

    (nice site, your sister just told me about it.)

  13. northwestsourdoughnorthwestsourdough
    November 3, 2010    

    You are welcome Raina, if you bake the pretzels, let me know how they turned out for you,

    happy baking, Teresa

  14. RainaRaina
    November 2, 2010    

    I’m just a novice bread maker but I do have a very happy starter that I’ve started with potato water. I think that it may be 100% hydration or close to that. It started out at 166% but I’ve been feeding it 1 cup flour and 2/3 cup water (some times I use potato water) for quite some time now. I’m excited to try these pretzels and am also looking forward to more of your recipes at 100%. I just love the look of your breads… thank you for your site!

  15. northwestsourdoughnorthwestsourdough
    November 1, 2010    

    Hi Moriah, I believe any coarse salt would work. It has to be coarse enough so it doesn’t dissolve easily.

  16. moriahmoriah
    November 1, 2010    

    Is the coarse salt you use kosher salt? If not, would it work?

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