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Pretzel Bread: A New Twist

Since the day I first sunk my teeth into a 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 soft pretzel, the fine layer of salt against the lacquered outer crust gets me every time.

pretzel bread
Photo: Casey Barber

There are three different pretzel recipes in Classic Snacks Made from Scratch, for Pete’s sake. I am a pretzel-making fool.

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? Rods, yes. Crackers, yes. Tiny, adorable nuggets for dunking into homemade honey mustard, yes.

pretzel bread sandwich
Photo: Casey Barber

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, making pretzel bread gets them into the 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.

pretzel bread sandwiches
Photo: Casey Barber

The pretzel 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 more than one loaf when it comes to eating your work.

(It’s also more efficient to make at least 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?)

pretzel rolls
Photo: Casey Barber

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.

Other pretzel powerhouses like Snyder’s of Hanover, Snyder’s of Berlin (formerly related, now separate companies), Utz, and Martin’s are still in business 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.

I’m still pining to make a homemade version of the elusive pretzel ice cream cone, but for now, at least I’ve got pretzel bread.

pretzel rolls
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pretzel bread and pretzel roll recipe, via goodfoodstories.com

Pretzel Bread and Rolls

Yield: 2 loaves, 4 hoagie rolls, or 8 sandwich rolls
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rising Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Pretzel bread is a perfect introduction for the beginning bread baker and pretzel maker: a crusty, glossy crust and chewy interior with no twisting!

Ingredients

Bread Dough

  • 4 cups (480 grams; 17 ounces) bread flour
  • 2 cups (240 grams; 8 1/2 ounces) white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup (53 grams; 2 1/8 ounces) packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast (not active dry yeast!)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups warm water (about 100-110 degrees F)
  • 1/2 cup organic canola or vegetable oil

Poaching Liquid

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) water
  • 1/2 cup (125 grams; 4 1/2 ounces) baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Topping

  • sesame seeds
  • Maldon salt

Instructions

Make the dough:

  1. Whisk the flours, brown sugar, yeast, and salt together in a large bowl to break down any lumps. 
  2. Stir in the warm water and vegetable oil until a soft dough forms.
  3. Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 5 minutes, until smooth and tacky but not sticky. 
  4. Spritz a large, clean bowl with cooking spray or grease lightly with vegetable oil and place the dough inside. 
  5. Spritz or grease a piece of plastic wrap and cover the bowl. 
  6. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  7. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Turn the risen dough out onto a clean, unfloured surface like a Roul'Pat.
  9. To make large loaves, divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into an oval about 7 inches long, pinching any seams closed with your fingers and rolling them to the underside of the loaf.
  10. To make long hoagie rolls, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a baguette about 8 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide, pinching any seams closed with your fingers and rolling them to the underside of the loaf.
  11. To make round sandwich rolls, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball about 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter, pinching any seams closed with your fingers and rolling them to the underside of the loaf.
  12. Place the dough on the prepared baking sheets and cover loosely with flour-sack towels or fresh sheets of sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise for another 30 minutes.

Poach and bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring the 8 cups water to a simmer in a large saucepan wide enough to fit one of the loaves of bread, like a 3-quart saute pan, over medium heat. 
  3. Add the baking soda and brown sugar and stir until dissolved. The water will foam slightly.
  4. Gently lower one of the pieces of dough into the water and poach for about 15 seconds per side, flipping with silicone spatulas and/or metal spider/skimmers. (Be very gentle with the large loaves so the liquid doesn't splash out of the pan.)
  5. Remove the dough from the poaching liquid and return to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
  6. Slash the top of each loaf or roll a few times with a serrated knife: for large loaves and hoagie rolls, make 3-4 diagonal slashes, and for sandwich rolls, make a criss-cross slash pattern.
  7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and Maldon salt.
  8. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the crust is deeply browned. 
  9. Cool the pretzel bread completely on a rack before slicing and eating.

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15 Comments

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

    I hope Pappy’s is still around.

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

  3. 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. 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!

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

  5. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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?

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

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

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