Friday, October 8, 2010

The Best Pretzel Rolls

A couple of weeks ago I went to see my friends in Bavaria and the Czek Republic.  One of my absolute favorite foods is pretzel bread.  Eating hot soft pretzels as a little girl from street vendors in New York was a regular weekend treat. The smell of coals, yeast and the feel of bracing cold knees and nose combined with the pleasure of being on an outing with my smartly dressed parents made me a happy girl. I would try the street pretzels as an adult, but they tasted stale, the smell of yeast and the alkaline pretzely distinctiveness gone.

When I first visited Germany, I couldn't believe it: there was my pretzel bread, on literally every corner bakery, in different shapes and sizes.  I ate very little else and on the plane on my recent trip, planned to do the same.  And there it was, just as before, even in the airport. Germany did not disappoint.

For many of the parties Kim and I have done, I have made a pretzel roll recipe from a 1992 Gourmet Magazine recipe. I make them half the size reccommended in the original recipe and fill the warm rolls with the best sharp cheddar I can get my hands on and a dab of Branston Pickle, an English condiment  that is black and vinegary and perfect with cheddar. They are very very popular. As a matter of fact, it was these that causes a fellow Corralenos to ask if I would do a party for him. It had never crossed my mind and was the germ of an idea that started the partnership between myself and Kim.  The only thing I don't do in the recipe is include celery seeds-- I don't want any flavor distractions from the bread!

                   The Best Pretzel Rolls

2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)

8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Coarse salt
Combine bread flour, 1 envelope yeast, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and celery seeds in food processor and blend.  With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough.  Process 1 minute to knead.  Grease medium bowl.  Add dough to bowl, turning to coat.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
Flour baking sheet. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball.  Place dough balls on prepared sheet, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball.  Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan.  Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up).  Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side.  Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up.  Repeat with remaining rolls.
Brush rolls with egg white glaze.  Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt.  Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes.  Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes.  Serve rolls warm or room temperature.  (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead.  Let stand at room temperature.  Rewarm in 375°F oven 10 minutes.)


  1. Worth the wait!
    Thank You, Nana!

  2. Oh man, these sound great! I remember once my Dad tried to make pretzels, they were pretty good: he made them in the shape of our initials, which we thought was cool.

    I also remember loving the pretzels in New York, but you're right, they're not the same now.

  3. try these then Lisa-they are addictive

  4. Caraway seeds, instead of Celery. That would be a more traditional German taste.

    Did the old time street vendors use Lye in place of baking soda? That would probably account for the smell you remember.

    BTW, Alton Brown would be proud, good eats.

  5. It was great to meet you in bavaria ;) Even if it´s been a bit funny to see the woman I knew as a "tough brave fighter" slobbering over cooking ^^. It was a great evening and I laughed a lot. So thanks again and greetings from Regensburg (Unesco world heritage city now, yeah! ;) )You are always welcome again.

  6. Slobbering??? Swooning is so much better and I will readily admit to it!

  7. These sound great! We've been doing something similar...

    We've been on a huge bagel-making kick recently. We finally found a bagel recipe that makes real authentic-tasting bagels, with the right chewy New York texture. So, it's been home-made cinnamon-raisin (my daughter's fave) bagels almost every day.

    Bagels and pretzels both share the boil-with-baking-soda-then-bake method. Our bagel recipe calls for a little bit of barley malt syrup in the dough, and I've been putting a bit in the boiling water, too.

    We were talking about doing pretzels next, so I'm definitely saving this recipe!

  8. OOOh now I want to make bagels!

    I'll use your barley malt syrup trick- thanks!

  9. ethnic food - lox, bagels & cream cheese...