These sourdough soft pretzels use natural wild yeast from a sourdough starter to leaven the pretzels, to produce a naturally tangy and complex soft pretzel that is better than anything you’ll get at a mall or airport! Use active sourdough starter, at its peak of activity when it’s doubled in size, usually 4 to 6 hours after you’ve fed it, but it will depend on how strong your starter is and the warmth and environment you have the starter in. If you want to just use the sourdough discard, see my section above on how to do that as well as how to speed up the rise process by “spiking” the dough with active dry yeast.
Course Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine American, German
Keyword bread, pretzels, sourdough
Prep Time 15minutes
Cook Time 16minutes
Rest Time 4hours
1cupwarm water90 to 100°F
1tablespoonmalt syrupcan substitute honey or brown sugar
1cupactive sourdough starter225 g, see section above
4cupsall-purpose flour560 g
1/4cupunsalted butter, melted57 g
Baking soda bath
2/3cupbaking soda170 g
Place the water and malt syrup (or other sweetener) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir with a fork until the sweetener is dissolved in the water. Add the sourdough starter to the liquid and stir until the starter has loosened and incorporated the water.
Add the flour, butter and salt to the bowl. If you are measuring by volume cups and not weight, use 3 1/2 cups of flour to start. Turn the mixer on slow and stir the ingredients until a shaggy dough forms. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all the ingredients to incorporate.
Once a dough forms, increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 4 to 5 minutes. If you are using measuring cups, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as needed to get the dough into a smooth and elastic dough. Keep in mind that it’s easier to add flour to a wet dough than add water to a dry dough, so be cautious and just add the dough near the end of the kneading, as the dough has become more consistent in texture.
If you are mixing by hand, you can combine the water, sweetener, and starter in a large bowl and stir with a large wooden spoon. Add the flour, butter and salt and stir until a shaggy dough forms. Then hand knead the dough on a lightly floured surface, until smooth and elastic. To knead, place the dough on a clean, lightly floured, surface, and pressing down with the heel of your hand into the dough. Fold the dough over, rotate the dough 90º then repeat pressing down with your heel on the folded dough. Continue this process, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Coat a bowl with cooking spray. Stretch the dough into a ball, gathering the rough edges of the dough into one side and then place in the bowl, with the rough edges down. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit to rise until the dough has doubled, about 3 to 4 hours.
Once the dough has doubled, preheat the oven to 450º. Line two baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper that has been lightly greased with cooking oil. Divide the dough into 10 even pieces. If you have a scale, the dough should be roughly 4 ounces or 110 g each. Cover the pieces with plastic wrap or a damp towel to keep them from drying out.
Roll one piece into a long rope, about 20 inches/50 cm long. If you are looking to form a more traditional Bavarian or German style shape, make sure the center of the rope is thicker than the ends.
Form a “U” shape with the rope, then lay the top of the rope over each other in an “X” formation. Then twist one more time, so the top of the rope is twisted together.
Flip the "leg" ends down to form a pretzel shape. Repeat with the remaining pieces and place on the baking sheet.
Place the water and baking soda in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure the baking soda has dissolved. Boil three or four of them (depending on how wide your pan is) in the baking soda water for 45 seconds. Flip the pretzels upside down and boil for an additional 45 seconds. Remove the pretzels from the water and place back on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels.
Beat the egg yolk and water together and brush the top of each pretzel with the egg wash.
Sprinkle the coarse salt on top of the pretzels. The egg wash will help the salt to stick. To make these look more traditionally German or Bavarian, you can also take a sharp knife and slice the “belly” of the pretzel, so it splits there as it bakes.
Bake in the oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until the pretzels are a dark brown. Rotating the pans once during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving them to a wire cooling rack.
You can turn these into pretzel buns by shaping round balls of the dough instead of forming the pretzels. Boil the dough balls, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds instead of salt. Cut a cross on the top of the balls and then bake as directed.