My friend, Amanda recently invited the Eats family over for dinner at her house for a German-inspired meal. I don't really do German food (and it's not really known for being vegetarian-friendly), so I really struggled when trying to think of something I could bring that would fit in with the meal. But then I remembered that my friend, Erin had posted a while back about some pretzel roll buns she'd made for a burger. That's it! I could just serve them as rolls with some good mustard instead of cutting them into buns.
And I'm glad I did. These pretzel rolls are fantastic. I mean, truly. If not for Erin's post, I don't think it would have ever occurred to me that I could make soft pretzels (and that they could be buns instead of, um, pretzel shaped). And they're not difficult to make, particularly if you have a stand mixer. It requires a little planning because of the time to rise. And doing a baking soda bath for the rolls isn't scary at all. I've made these a couple of times now (once with 8 large rolls; once with 16 rolls) and I'm just so excited I can make a bread that tastes so good and doesn't suck out all my will to live. Or require a machine. If I can do this, you can, too. Believe me.
adapted from Erin's Food Files, et al
yield: 8 large bun-size rolls or 16 dinner-size rolls
prep time: 20 min active time + 1 1/2 hours rise time
cook time: 15-20 min
1 ½ cup warm water (110°F)
1 package active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons molasses (optional)
4-½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons butter, melted
¼ cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
pretzel salt, for sprinkling (or more kosher salt or sea salt)
Mix. In your stand mixer bowl, add the water, yeast, sugar, and molasses. Stir vigorously with a spoon and let rest 5-10 minutes until foamy.
Rise. Add the flour, salt, and melted butter and mix using the dough hook until combined well. Cover with plastic wrap (or a towel) and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Roll. Give the dough a punch in the middle and turn it onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Lightly form into a loaf to cut. Line 1 large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. Cut the dough into 8 or 16 equal pieces. To shape the dough, take a piece of dough and start forming a round, smooth ball by pulling the sides to the center and pinching to seal. Place, pinched side down, on a counter and lightly cupping your hand around the dough ball, rotate your hand in small circles lightly rolling the ball around the palm of your hand.
Rise. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet pinched seam side down, with at least ½ to 1” between each roll (more room between larger rolls). Cover with a towel and allow to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes until they rise & nearly double again.
Parboil. Preheat oven to 425°F with the oven rack in the middle position. In a large saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a low boil. Remove from heat and slowly add the baking soda (it will foam), place back on heat and lower to a simmer. Place 2-3 of the rolls at a time into the poaching liquid, seam side down. Poach for 30 seconds and then carefully turn the roll over and poach for another 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to the same prepared sheet pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls. [Why is this part important? Savvy Eats explains.]
Bake. Using a pastry brush, brush each roll with the beaten egg, making sure to coat all sides completely. Sprinkle each roll with a little pretzel salt (if using kosher or sea salt, use a bit more). Using a sharp straight edged knife, cut a slash (or 2) -or- an “X” shape in the top of each roll. Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until dark brown (as desired). Serve hot!
Note: I added molasses to my recipe, but you can substitute the white sugar for dark brown sugar (increase to 3 teaspoons) or leave it out completely.
Vegan? Savvy Eats has a similar recipe (based on Alton Brown’s) that doesn’t require butter or egg!
Click through to see photos of each step...