Homemade Soft Pretzels are the ultimate snack because they are delicious salty or sweet. They can be frozen and reheated and taste amazing!
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Usually pretzels are the best freshly made, eaten the day they are baked but I wanted a make ahead soft pretzel recipe that could be frozen and reheated right before the reception so that I wouldn’t have to spend the wedding day baking my heart out. This recipe pleases me.
Homemade Soft Pretzel Recipe
A lot of soft pretzel recipes out there use a very basic dough made with water. The traditional German cookbook I have uses water, even though there are Bavarian and Swabian recipes that use higher fat content with butter and add milk.
When I worked at a bakery during college I learned that enriched doughs with more milk, eggs or butter tend to stay a little softer and fresh longer instead of getting hard the next day. This soft pretzel recipe is made with milk instead of water, personal preference and in my opinion, makes the pretzels stay fresh longer. I also use oil and not butter because I feel like oil improves the texture of the dough and the pretzel is softer when baked.
The best way to start a “sponge” for a yeasted bread using dry active yeast is by mixing together the warm liquid of choice and sugar first, then adding the yeast and letting it sit for about 5 minutes until it foams. In this case it’s milk that’s about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you’ve watched The Great British Baking Show (I’m obsessed) Paul Hollywood mentions in the masterclass that he uses room temperature liquids to activate yeast, because the longer the yeast rises at a lower temperature more flavor is retained in the dough. While I don’t proof this dough with the milk at room temperature, I did find out after the fact that he uses milk in his recipe too…which makes me feel special.
I made a batch with all purpose flour and a batch with strong white bread flour (has a higher protein and gluten ratio than all purpose flour), and both work fine.
Pretzel dough should NOT be sticky. If it’s sticky at all it doesn’t hold it’s shape very well in the baking soda bath and during baking and mushes so you can’t see the lovely twists. It’s also a lot easier to work with! I should mention that the more you roll out the dough, the tougher it gets so try not to play around with it too much.
Pro tip: I like to use salt in my baking soda bath water, because it improves the flavor of the pretzels, like when you boil pasta. I also think it helps bond the starches in the dough so that it doesn’t get gummy and dissolve.
It’s also important to use parchment paper when you make these soft pretzels. I’ve made them before with rubber baking mats and tinfoil, and they end up with a weird residue baked onto the bottom of them.
I made a savory cheese dip and sweet cream cheese dip to eat these with for the wedding, someday soon I promise I will post those lovely dips.
Tips for the best homemade soft pretzels:
- Use milk not water! This will help the pretzels stay fresh longer.
- Add flour if the dough is sticky, less sticky dough means the pretzels will hold their shape better.
- Use salt in the baking soda bath to improve flavor.
- Parchment paper not tin foil or baking mats to help soak up any excess water from the boil.
More Bread Recipes to try:
Homemade Soft Pretzels
- 1-1/2 cups warm milk can use 1%, 2%, or whole
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
- 4-1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour
- 10 cups water
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg, beaten for brushing onto pretzels
- In a large measuring cup, combine warm milk and sugar and mix well. Add yeast and let sit for 5 minutes, until foamy. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl combine salt, oil, and 4-1/2 cups flour. Once the milk and yeast have proofed for 5 minutes, pour into flour mixture.
- Mix in a stand mixer with a dough hook or by hand for 5 to 8 minutes, until dough becomes smooth. Dough should not be sticky and should pull away from the sides of the bowl easily. (If it is sticky, add flour 1 or 2 Tablespoons at a time and mix until smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl easily.)
- Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 45 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size. While dough is rising, prepare 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper, prepare the baking soda bath by combining water, baking soda, and salt in a large pot and bring to a slow boil, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- When dough is ready, use 1/3 cup measuring cup to divide dough into 12-14 equal pieces. I don't divide all at once, I prefer to roll out one pretzel at a time so the dough doesn't dry out too fast.
- Roll pieces into a 24 inch rope. Form into a U shape, then twist the ends over each other and press them to the bottom of the pretzel to make the classic three hole shape. Sometimes a dab of water on the ends helps them stick together better.
- Gently lower the pretzels one by one into the baking soda bath and boil for 20-30 seconds. Lift them out with a flat spatula and place on the parchment paper prepared baking sheets.
- Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with extra salt if preferred, and bake for 8 minutes (no longer than 10) at 450 degrees F until golden brown. Enjoy!