Hot. Tempting. Perfectly tanned. Introducing the pretzel, ladies and gentlemen. You’ve had them in tiny twists, soft braids, and buttery mall-bought goodness, but you just never get sick of pretzels. Really, you never get sick of them. I worked at Auntie Anne’s from the time I was 15 to 22, and pretzels are still one of my favorite foods—to the point that I’ve had the strongest urge lately to make some at home.
As a self-proclaimed pretzel aficionado, I wanted to make something innovative from my favorite snack. Something you could pat with butter, sprinkle with cinnamon, or even stuff with ham and cheese. That’s when I remembered Laugenbrötchen, the German pretzel-rolls that I saw once during a visit in New York City.
Traditional German Laugenbrötchen are made using lye, and I wanted these pretzel rolls to be as authentic as possible, but all I could imagine was that scene from Fight Club. You know, the one where Tyler Durden explains,“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Since I’d like to avoid chemical burn at all costs, I decided to nix the lye and use a baking soda bath instead. It worked perfectly. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I wound up with was a delicious hybrid between a dinner roll and a soft pretzel. Can it get any better than that?
Eat them with mustard, spread on some nutella, or just enjoy these rolls as they are and wash them down with some Bavarian lager. The Laugenbrötchen are great vessels for any kind of dip, spread, meat, or cheese, making them a creative and tasty way to upgrade from plain bread or crackers at your next gathering. I wound up making Bratwurst Sliders with mine! Make the rolls up to a day ahead of time because they take about 3 hours of work all-together, but they are so, so worth it. I wouldn’t lie to you.
- 7 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 ½ tablespoons melted butter (or 3 tablespoons canola oil)
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 1 cup warm water
- pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt)
- 7 cups water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 4 tablespoons baking soda
- Heat up 2 ½ cups milk in the microwave for a minute, then add 2 teaspoons active dry yeast. You’ll need a decent-sized bowl for this, as you’ll add water to this mixture later. Let rest for 10 minutes.
- In the mean time, whisk 6 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 ½ tablespoon of light brown sugar in another large bowl.
- After 10 minutes have passed, mix 1 cup warm water and 3 ½ tablespoons melted butter into the yeast-milk mixture.
- Pour the liquid mixture into your flour, salt, and brown sugar blend.
- Use a wooden spoon at first to mix, as it’s going to be very sticky. After it is well-mixed, you will likely have to add more flour. Add about a ¼ cup at a time and mix into your dough you can form a dough ball. It won’t be completely solid, but you should be able to pick up the dough ball without it slopping all over. You may wind up adding a cup or so of flour, or you might not have to add any—that’s okay. Dough consistency varies based on a lot of elements such as humidity, temperature of the water, and even the brand of flour. Trust your gut.
- Cover your dough with a clean towel and leave it to rise for an hour.
- Flour a cutting board and your hands to prevent sticking, and knead your dough for about a minute.
- Flour a knife, and cut your dough into palm-sized sections. Roll the sections of dough into balls—don’t make them too big, they still have to rise more!
- Cover the dough with your towel and leave them for another 10 minutes.
- While you wait, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and prepare the salt and baking soda bath. Mix 7 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 4 tablespoons of baking soda in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
- After 10 minutes have passed, drop a few dough balls into your bath and let them poach for a minute. I could fit 4-5 dough balls at a time in my pot, but it might be better to do 2 at a time if your pot isn’t very wide. Flip the dough balls half-way through poaching so that they are evenly poached on both sides.
- Remove your dough balls with a slotted spoon and place them onto a greased baking sheet. Keep going until all of your dough balls have been poached.
- Cut 2-3 slits in the tops of your dough balls and top with pretzel salt.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.