German Soft Pretzels (Brezeln)


When we were in Germany this past summer, I LOVED the fresh hot pretzels that we could get every day.  When we came home, I looked around for a recipe that would bring us that fresh baked flavor:

Ingredients – for the Dough:


  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 to 4 and 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons salted room-temperature butter

Ingredients – for the Lye Dip:

  • Plastic gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Digital cooking scale
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 ounce food-grade lye
  • Coarse salt

Directions – Dough:

  1. Proof the yeast by dissolving it in 1/4 cup warm water and sugar for 5 minutes.
  2. In mixing bowl (Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook): add proofed yeast and 1 cup of warm water.  Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth.
  3. Knead for 5 minutes.  Then let rest for a few minutes.  Add room temperature butter and knead for at least 5 minutes, until the butter is fully incorporated.  At this time, the dough should be firm and soft, and velvety to the touch.
  4. Form into a ball, butter all surfaces, and let rise until double (about an hour) in a warm spot.

Shape the Pretzels:

  1. Place wax paper on a baking sheet.
  2. De-gas (punch down) the dough and divide into 12 (2-ounce) pieces. Form into balls. Using very little flour, form balls into 1-foot long strands, thicker in the middle and tapering towards the ends.
  3. Take each strand and roll out again to form 2-foot strands. Twist into a pretzel shape, using a little water to make the ends stick to the loop. Experienced pretzel bakers can flip pretzels into shape in the air, but most people have to coax them.
  4. Place the pretzels on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour. This dries out the surface and makes them easier to handle.

Make the Lye Solution:

  1. Put on gloves and safety glasses.  Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Place 1 quart of water in a plastic or glass container, weigh 1 ounce of food grade or reagent grade sodium hydroxide into a bowl and add slowly to the water, stirring with a plastic spoon or similar object. ALWAYS ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER, not the other way around! For scientists: The lye solution will be approximately 0.75 M NaOH (FW 39.99g/mol) or almost 3% w/w.
  3. Remove pretzels from the refrigerator and dip each for 30 seconds in the lye solution. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on greased or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.
  4. Sprinkle pretzel with salt. Make a deep cut through the thick part of the pretzel horizontally with a razor blade or lame. Let pretzels rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Bake pretzels at 375 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until deep golden brown.

Variations – instead of making pretzel shapes, can make buns or pretzel bites.





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