Pretzel Bread: A New Twist

Since the day I first sunk my teeth into a soft, chewy, warm pretzel from the Hot Sam counter at the Richland Mall (RIP), I’ve maintained a lifelong love affair with the crusty carb. Whether it’s the crunchy, tooth-crushing texture of a hard Snyder’s sourdough or the cushy, doughy insides of a fresh-from-the-oven pretzel, the fine layer of salt against the lacquered outer crust gets me every time. There are three different pretzel recipes in Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, for Pete’s sake. I am a pretzel-making fool.

pretzel bread
So it’s a little astonishing to realize that until this month, I’d never ventured into making full loaves of pretzel bread. How was this possible? Rolls, yes. Rods, yes. Twists, yes. Tiny, adorable nuggets for dunking into homemade honey mustard, yes. But here’s the deep, dark secret: making pretzel bread is much easier than shaping, twirling, and poaching smaller pretzels. With a larger loaf shape, you’re not stuck at the counter, molding small pieces of dough into different shapes. You’re making an oval: one and done.

For beginning pretzel makers who’ve never gone through the process of kneading, rising, shaping, proofing, poaching, and baking, it gets them into the pretzel groove without the extra manipulation. Beginning bread makers get a soft, unfussy dough to work with, boosting their confidence to try goopier doughs like ciabatta and (eventually) sourdough breads. It’s a win-win on both counts.

The bread recipe below is a close adaptation of the soft pretzel recipe from Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, but I’ve made it a little sturdier with the substitution combination of bread flour and white whole wheat flour. It seems like a lot of dough when you’re kneading it, but rest assured that you’ll be glad you baked two loaves when it comes to eating this stuff. (It’s also more efficient to make two loaves at once because each needs to be poached in a baking soda solution to give the pretzel bread its signature shiny brown crust. If you’re already boiling up two quarts of liquid to make the bread, why not dunk two loaves instead of just one?)

Pretzels, by the way, are a distinctly Pennsylvanian snack—Julius Sturgis, the first commercial pretzel factory in the U.S., is still in business in Lititz, PA, along with contenders like Snyder’s of Hanover, Snyder’s of Berlin (formerly related, now separate companies), Utz, and Martin’s dispersed throughout the state. As I discovered in an old Gourmet article when researching Classic Snacks, a typical American eats two pounds of pretzels per year. A Central Pennsylvanian eats six pounds annually.

pretzel bread
Up next: the elusive pretzel ice cream cone. You heard it here, folks.

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  1. RandeB says

    Wait, the Richland Mall is gone? Been a while since we made it out there, I guess.

    I hope Pappy’s is still around.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Rande, Pappy’s is still around, but the shell of the Richland Mall was torn down a few years ago to make way for a bunch of big-box stores. It’s now called the Richland Town Center.

  2. gburg says

    Neither of which had/have much to offer.
    I did love the pretzels however. I hope your pretzel bread is just as tasty.

  3. says

    mmmm I do love home made pretzels, but I too have never made a big loaf! How and why have I not done this yet!! I have fond memories of visiting pretzel factories when visiting PA. So many flavors! And it was always so fun to watch them make them :)

  4. says

    Can’t wait to try this! I’m sure my kids will love it – we are all huge pretzel fans. BTW – pretzels (especially the soft, salty Philly style) were the food item I missed the most when we lived in the UK for 2 years. I CRAVED them – even the bags of the hard snack type were few and far between (and the ones I could get were not very good) – most of their snacks are crisps (potato chips). One of the first things I did when we got home was enjoy a huge Philly soft pretzel (with mustard) – savored every bite!

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Judge? I’ll ask if you can give me one of those four loaves, since mine are already gone.

  5. George says

    I was looking around for just such a bread recipie. Made this yesterday to bring to a party. It turned out quite well and was a huge hit. We kept one of the 2 loaves for ourselves 😉

    I expect this to become a regular item in this house :)
    I just love the combination of texture, tastes, and aromas.
    I sprinkled a tiny bit of kosher salt on top of each loaf before baking. It gave it a nice look and made it taste even more pretzel-ey.

    Great recipie! Thanks for sharing.

    • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

      Sara, instead of shaping the dough into 2 large loaves, you can shape it into smaller hoagie-sized rolls or buns before the second rise. Then poach and bake as directed, checking as the rolls bake as they may not need the full 25 minutes. If you’re making very small (individual or mini) rolls, you may want to use the recipe in Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, which makes a softer dough.

      • Sara says

        Thanks! Would hoagies be better with this bread or the recipe from the book?

        By the way, have you tried the pretzel comes yet? It is funny because I just saw this recipe but have been planning to try zones this weekend! What a coincidence! I was doing to experiment with the hrs pretzel recipe from the book. Do you have any advice for me? Do you think I should boil before ore after shaping into a cone?

        • Casey BarberCasey Barber says

          I haven’t started experimenting with the cones yet, but I plan to this summer!

          • Sara says

            Please let me know what you come up with! I will fill you in if I have any success.