26 Apr 2017


Posted by khk

Happy National Pretzel Day! I checked, and Hallmark does not make a card for this important holiday, so all I have is this recipe…

Pretzels in a basket


I used to bake pretzels after boiling them in a baking soda solution, but "real" pretzels are made with food grade lye. You can find my old recipe here: http://www.khk.net/wordpress/2007/07/05/pretzel-baking/

Using lye makes things a bit more complex and a lot more dangerous, but as long as you wear protective gear (latex gloves and goggles) and always put the lye into the cold water (never the other way around!), things should go smoothly. More information about the lye solution is in the notes. 

Servings 12 Pretzels


Pate Fermentée

  • 350 g AP Flour
  • 50 g White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 260 g Water
  • 6 g Salt
  • 1.5 g Instant Yeast

Pretzel Dough

  • 334 g Pate Fermentée (this is half of the amount from above)
  • 485 g AP Flour or Bread Flour
  • 150 g Milk
  • 125 g Water
  • 3.5 g Instant Yeast
  • 10 g Salt
  • 15 g Butter
  • 35 g Sourdough Starter (optional, but if you have it, it's unfed and straight from the fridge)


Pate Fermentée

  1. Mix until combined and dough comes off the wall of mixing blown, stretch and fold once, let rise for two hours and store in the fridge over night.

  2. This makes twice the amount of "old dough" that is required for the following recipe, so after it spends a night in the fridge, divide in two, and use one half for the recipe, and store the second half in a freezer bag in the freezer. I usually don't go much longer than four or six weeks, so anything longer than that is an experiment 🙂

Pretzel Dough

  1. Mix all ingredients on low for 5 minutes and on low/medium for 8 minutes. The dough is very stiff and may be too much to handle for your mixer. 

  2. Let dough rise for 60 minutes with a stretch and fold at 30 minutes. 

  3. Divide into 12 pieces, and shape into balls. Let rest for 10 minutes.

  4. Form into pretzels and place on parchment lined sheet pan. Let rest uncovered for 15 minutes in the fridge.

  5. Roll dough into 10” long logs and let rest for a few more minutes before forming 20” long “snake” that tapers at the ends.

  6. Dip pretzels into 4% lye solution (mix 20g lye pearls in 500g cold water until completely dissolved) for 4 seconds, let any remaining lye solution drip off and place on a parchment lined sheet pan. See the notes for more information about using parchment. Sprinkle with pretzel salt.

  7. Bake without stream at 450F for about 20 minutes - or until deep pretzel colored.

Recipe Notes

Here is a bit more about the lye solution: I use "micro beads", which are easier to way and to dilute than "normal" lye. When you buy the stuff, make sure you get "food grade". Here is the source I bought my last batch from: Pure Lye Drain Cleaner - yes, the name sounds horrible, but in the description, it specifies the product as food grade.

When handling this stuff, wear protective gear: Use latex gloves and goggles to protect skin and eyes. I assume that you know what you are doing. The following is just a description of what I do, and should not be understood as instructions to handle a dangerous substance. From this point on, you are on your own. On second thought, do not bake pretzels using lye. It's dangerous and could kill you! If you decide to proceed, it's on your own responsibility.

Whenever you mix a lye solution, always start with cold water and then slowly add the lye to the water and stir until there are no solid parts remaining. Otherwise you may end up with a piece of lye stuck to a pretzel, and that could be a painful experience when you bite into that. Stir until the solution is clear - like water. If you see anything still floating in the solution, keep on stirring. 

I use 500ml cold water and 20g lye in a glass bowl. I then carefully pick up a shaped (but at this time unbaked) pretzel and lower it into the solution with my latex glove protected hands. After about 4 seconds, I take it out, let as much lye as possible drip off, and then place the pretzel carefully on a baking sheet covered with either a silat liner or parchment paper. Some parchment does not like to work with lye covered baked goods: Whatever you put on it may stick to the paper, and you may have to eat some paper in order to enjoy your pretzels. I usually spray the parchment paper with cooking spray to protect it from too much contact with the lye solution.

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