I love pretzels! Or as we call them in Europe ‘Brezel’. I could never go past a bakery or stand selling them and not buy one. Not having pretzels in New Zealand for the longest time, I started trying out different recipes and tweaking them until I got them just the way I like them, and I hope you do too!
Also… as a soap maker, how can you not make pretzels, right?
How to make pretzels
STEP ONE: Measure out 4 cups of plain white flour to a large bowl.
STEP TWO: Add 60 g butter, roughly 4 tablespoons, and rub the butter into the flour with your finger.
STEP THREE: Fill a cup (approximately 250 ml) with lukewarm water and stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 packet of dried yeast (= 7 grams of dried yeast).
STEP FOUR: Pour it into the flour and mix with a spatula until all the liquid has been incorporated.
STEP FIVE: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (DON’T FORGET THE SALT!) and start kneading with your hands.
I like to grab the dough from the side, pull it up, and then push it down into the middle, and repeat this all around a few times. Keep kneading until you have a fairly smooth dough.
STEP SIX: Cover and let rest for 3 hours.
STEP SEVEN: After 3 hours, the dough should have doubled in size. Gently remove the dough onto a clean surface and fold it into a ball.
Weigh the dough and divide into 10 equal portions. My dough weighed just a little over 1000 grams, so divided my dough up into portions of about 100 grams each.
STEP EIGHT: Roll each portion into a long strand, thick in the middle and tapering out at the ends. If you want big holes in your pretzels shapes at the end, make very long thin strands. I don’t like these big gaps, which make it difficult to cut and spread butter on, so I make mine more compact, and hence the shorter strands.
Twist the strands into a pretzel shape and place them on a tray.
STEP NINE: Put the tray with pretzels into the fridge for about 30 minutes to become cold and stiff, so that you are able to dip them into the lye solution.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180 C… (bold so you don’t forget!)
… and prepare the lye solution as follows:
STEP TEN: Put on your protective gloves and goggles. Measure out 1 litre of cold water into a heat proof bowl or container. Stainless steel, pp plastic or tempered, tempered glass, such as Pyrex jugs are all good, but no aluminium, which reacts with the caustic lye. I’m using an empty 2 litre ice cream container. Weigh out and add 30 grams of food grade sodium hydroxide to the cold water and stir until it has completely dissolved. Set aside and make sure no one comes near it.
Lye is caustic and can cause severe burns. Make sure you wear protective gloves and goggles when handling lye. Do not leave your prepared lye unattended. Store the lye in its original packaging (which has the necessary safety information on it, and out of reach of children.
If you splash lye on your skin, rinse with cold water. If ingested or in your eyes, call your medical emergency (111 in New Zealand) immediately.
STEP ELEVEN: After 30 minutes, take the pretzels out of the fridge and dip each into the lye solution with a slotted spoon (no aluminium!) for about 20-30 seconds. They’ll turn a yellow colour (way more yellow than in the images) and will become quite slippery. Chemically speaking, the butter fats in the dough are reacting with the lye and turning into soap! This is what gives the pretzels its unique taste!
STEP TWELVE: Place the lye dipped pretzels onto a baking paper lined baking tray, and then sprinkle with coarse salt and use a razor blade to cut a slit into the thick part of the pretzel. The last step is optional, and you can easily leave it out. It is just to give it the traditional ‘brezel’ look!
STEP THIRTEEN: Bake the pretzels for about 15-20 minutes until fairly dark brown in colour. Leave to cool down.
STEP FOURTEEN: Dispose of the lye solution down the sink after use and flush after with cold water. Lye is biodegradable and we are using a very weak 3% solution. Note that caustic soda (which is what lye is), is used to clean drains! Rinse all equipment that came into contact with the lye immediately with cold water.
PS you don’t have to do pretzel shapes. I often do buns, and use them for my son’s lunch box. They taste great with ham, salami or cheese, or my favourite, just plain butter.
Soap maker's pretzels
- 4 cups plain white flour
- 60 grams butter (approximately 4 tablespoons
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 packet (7 grams) dried yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 30 grams food grade sodium hydroxide
- 1 litre cold water
- Measure out 4 cups of flour
- Add 60 grams of butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers.
- Fill a cup with lukewarm water.
- Stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 packet of dried yeast.
- Add it to the flour and mix with a spatula, until all the liquid is incorporated.
- Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and using your hands start kneading until you have a smooth dough.
- Cover and let rest for 3 hours.
- Gently remove the dough and fold it into a ball.
- Weigh the dough and divide into 10 equal portions.
- Roll each portion into a long strand – thicker in the middle and tapering out at the ends.
- Twist the strands into a pretzel and place on a tray.
- Place the tray with the pretzels into the fridge for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180 C…
- … and prepare the lye solution as follows: Make sure you are wearing disposable gloves and protective eyewear. Add 30 grams food grade sodium hydroxide to 1 litre of cold water. Stir until dissolved.
- After 30 minutes, take the pretzels out of the fridge and dip each into the lye solution with a slotted spoon (no aluminium!) for about 20-30 seconds. They’ll turn a yellow colour and will become quite slippery.
- Place the lye dipped pretzels onto a baking paper lined baking tray.
- Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt and use a razor blade to cut a slit into the thick part of the pretzel.
- Bake the pretzels for about 15-20 minutes until brown.
- Dispose of the lye solution down the sink after use (it is a very weak 3% solution) and rinse all equipment that came into contact with the lye immediately with cold water.