I’ve made several German recipes for my kids’ high school German classes over the last few years. The assignment was to make or bake a German recipe and everyone in the class enjoyed the snacks. My daughter decided she wanted to try real homemade German pretzels when she was a Freshman. So I set out to find an authentic German pretzel recipe.
Homemade German Pretzel Recipe
Previously I had made Bretzel Rolls, so luckily I was already prepared for this. The Bretzel rolls were delicious and reminded me of a restaurant I used to go to. For this same class assignment we also made mini lemon cakes and Partybrot.
I found this pretzel recipe on the blog La Cerise. It’s run by Astrid who lives in Zurich and bakes up some true masterpieces. This German pretzel recipe was originally adapted by Astrid from a German website.
I’ve calculated the adjustments from metric to standard, so I was very pleased that our homemade German pretzels came together so well.
The first time I made them they were considerably smaller than I expected. Mine looked quite a bit fatter than Astrid’s, so when I made these again, I made sure to roll out my ropes longer.
That was back in February of 2009. Fast forward a few years and I’ve made these homemade German pretzels several times.
Baking Soda Bath
Have you ever wondered why pretzels, which are made essentially from bread dough, have that lovely brown crust when a loaf of bread does not? Pretzels get that wonderful brown crust from something called the “Maillard process”. While I won’t take you back to science class, I can tell you that this process is a het activated reaction between small sugars and amino acids.
“Dipping dough in lye alters the ratio between sugar and protein, because lye breaks proteins present in the dough into smaller bits. Those are the small amino acids that then combine with sugars in the dip to create the flavor compounds at the pretzel’s crust.” [Source: Wisconsin Public Radio Ideas Network]
Since you can’t really find lye at the grocery store, you can use a baking soda bath to get the same results. The chemical reaction takes place in the baking soda bath, and after baking in the hot oven you’ll get that beautiful brown crust that pretzels are so famous for.
Authentic German pretzels are a little smaller and not as fat as the kind you get at the county fair or local food stand. So don’t expect the same pretzel that you buy from the street vendor or food truck.
They are delicious though and you should definitely try them. Besides, the process is actually quite fun. Who knew science could be so delicious?
More Pretzel Recipes
- Ham & Cheese Pretzel Roll Sandwiches
- Bretzel Rolls (Pretzel Sandwich Rolls)
- Homemade Pretzel Dogs – What Megan’s Making
- Rosemary Sea Salt Pretzels – Two Peas and Their Pod
- Air Fryer Pretzel Bites
Homemade German Pretzels
IMPORTANT - There are often Frequently Asked Questions within the blog post that you may find helpful. Simply scroll back up to read them!Print It Rate It
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 pkgs active dry yeast 4 1/2 teaspoons
- 3 tbsp butter
- Coarse salt for sprinkling
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 2 quarts water
- Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water. Mix flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the flour mixture then add the sugar to the center of the well. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the well. Let it rest for 15 minutes before mixing.
- Add the softened butter to the mixing bowl and knead everything to a smooth dough. I used the dough hook on my Kitchenaid for about 6 minutes on speed #2, I did have to add about a tablespoon of additional water as it was not quite gathering all the dry ingredients. Remove the dough hook and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough into twelve equal parts, then roll each piece on the table (don't flour the surface, you shouldn't need it) to about 20 inches, tapered toward the ends. Don't make it smaller than 20 inches as it's impossible to get a good shape with a short, thick rope of dough. The dough should not get too warm as you roll it out, or it might tear.
- To form the pretzel shape, place dough rope on parchment lined cookie sheet so that it creates the shape of the letter "U". Take both ends of the "U" and cross them over each other twice forming a twist. Bring that twist down and place it over the bottom curve of the "U".
- Place the pretzels without covering them in the fridge for about an hour. This helps build a skin that will absorb the dipping solution better and make a beautiful shiny crust.
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- Fill large stock or pasta pot 3/4 full and bring the water to a boil. Carefully and slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. There will be a reaction when the baking soda hits the water and it will bubble furiously for a moment and then relax. Stand back a bit just to be safe. Using a slotted spoon, gently drop each pretzel into the bath for 10 seconds, then turn over for another 10. Astrid called for a total of 10 seconds only. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Score the dough once like for a baguette with a razor blade or sharp knife.
- Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake the pretzels for about 15 to 20 minutes (mine took 20 minutes for a nice dark crust), depending on how dark you like them.
Expert Tips & FAQs
This post originally published on February 19, 2009
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Mike R says
My family loves these. I added barley malt syrup to the dough and to the boiling water. Gives the pretzels a robust flavor. I used 50% AP flour and 50% whole wheat flour. I also add flax seeds to the dough.
Bob Boudi says
bake at what temperature ?
Amanda Formaro says
Hi Bob! The temperature is in the instructions, the printable recipe card. 400 F
Not sure what I did but my dough was tough to roll out, pretzels were dry. Any ideas?
Amanda Formaro says
It is a very stiff dough, so it may just need to be worked more. It’s also possible that you used too much flour. Be sure to use the scoop and sweep method of measuring flour.
Simon Golub says
Easy to make with beautiful and delicious results!
I did a 3 white, 1 wholemeal mix and added fennel seeds they came out amazing
Vicki Elo says
Do active dry yeast packets come in different sizes because we have ones that are only 1/4oz which would only be 3 teaspoons for two packets?
R. Patricia Capitain says
Can I freeze the pretzels after the baking soda bath, BEFORE I bake them? I am giving a luncheon Oktoberfest and won’t have the time to do all the preparations.
I just got done baking mine and they are beautiful, except, they won’t release from the parchment paper. Any ideas? If I can’t get that off, it ruins the whole thing :(
You should always coat your parchment paper with oil or use silicone baking sheets. Anytime you have parchment stick to something just wet it and peel it off.
Mini pretzel bite idea…Turned out perfectly! I took 1/4 of the dough and made 1 inch pieces instead of making the pretzel shape and voila, little pretzel bites…they went quicker than the larger ones and what a great party idea with dipping sauces.
I made these the other day as a trial and they were so yummy thank you!
I’m making them again today for a party tomorrow – do you think if I froze them (once they are shaped and risen for an hour in the fridge) – I could then defrost for an hour tomorrow and do the soda bath and baking?
Nancy Smith says
Awesome recipe! How do I store them for a day or 2?