Pretzel Bread: A New Twist

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on March 25, 2013

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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