Having my sourdough starter being super active while baking lots of loaves of bread (doubling in about 3 hours), I ventured out into snack land, and decided to make sourdough pretzels. It turned out great! While still working on refining their final look, the flavor and texture (chewy like a good soft pretzel) are spot on!
I typically like to mix all-purpose with another type of flour, to make my sourdough goods a little more interesting in flavor, color, and texture. This recipe could simply be made with 100% AP, which will make the dough less sticky, than if you add, say, whole wheat flour, which will make the dough stickier. Finding the right balance of pressure on the dough as you roll, as well as the right amount of flour to add to your rolling surface are keys to getting evenly shaped rods. Too much, and the dough slides rather than rolls. Not enough, and it sticks. It takes a bit of practice to finesse the dough, but is worth the effort!
You can customize the herb mixture, or just keep it classic and use salt. A finishing salt with large grains, or kosher salt work best for sprinkling on top. And of course, there’s always “pretzel salt” you could use, although unless it has at least three different uses, I don’t keep an ingredient in my kitchen.
Sourdough Soft Pretzels
- large heavy mixing bowl
- heavy dutch oven with lid or bread baker
- bench or dough scraper
- digital kitchen scale
- serrated bread knife
- Silicone spatula or Danish dough whisk
- tea ball/steeper
- 350 grams plus 25 grams warmed (80°F/27°C) water
- 100 grams active sourdough starter
- 500 grams flour total:
- - 400 grams all-purpose flour
- - 100 grams: whole wheat, spelt, or bread flour
- 2 Tbsp. (30 ml or 40g) honey
- 1 egg or almond milk if vegan
- 10 grams salt
- kosher or other finishing salt to taste
- dried herbs to taste caraway, oregano, fennel, poppy seeds, e.g.
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) baking soda
Activate Starter (8 hours)
- Discard all but 3 tablespoons (50g) of starter. You can use discarded starter for other purposes.
- Mix in 50 grams of 78°F/26°C water and 50 grams all-purpose flour.
- Mix thoroughly until there aren’t any dry bits of flour.
- Cover mixture with a towel or paper towel and let it rise overnight or about 6 to 8 hours.
Mix Dough (30 minutes)
- In a large heavy bowl, add 350 grams of 80°F/27°C water and 100 grams of active sourdough starter.
- Add the flour(s) and mix thoroughly with spatula or dough whisk, making a "shaggy" dough. Ensure there aren’t any dry bits of flour.
- Cover bowl with dish towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- At the end of the resting period, dough should look less shaggy and smoother.
- Add 10 grams salt and 25 grams of 80°F/27°C water. Use your hands to mix it and make sure the salt is worked through all of it. Once the water and salt are mixed in and the dough feels more cohesive, do one or two turns.
- To do one turn, take the side of the dough furthest away ("12:00" of the bowl), and gently lift it out of the bowl until it stretches, then fold it back on itself towards you ("6:00" of the bowl). Wait 10 seconds. Turn the bowl one-third (about 120 degrees) and repeat the lift and fold. Wait 10 seconds, turn bowl one-third and repeat lifting and folding. This is one turn.
Bulk Fermentation (3.5 hours)
- This will take 3 to 4 hours if your kitchen is relatively warm (78-82°F/25-28°C). In a cooler kitchen, it will take at least 4 hours, maybe longer. Leave the dough in its bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel while turning.
- Every 30 minutes, do one gentle turn of the dough (see above).
- The dough will increase in volume noticeably and appear smoother after a few hours.
Shape & Parboil Pretzels (30 minutes)
- In a pot, bring a gallon (4 liters) of water with 1 Tbsp. of baking soda mixed in to a boil.
- Flour your work surface well. A tea ball/steeper works well for dusting flour evenly.
- Pour the dough out onto floured surface. With a sharp-edged bench/dough scraper, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Each piece should weigh about 85 grams.
- Roll each piece into an even rod, about 24 inches (100cm) long and 1/2" (1 cm) in diameter, about the thickness of your pinky finger.
- Prepare two cookie sheet pans covered with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Shape each dough rod into a pretzel by placing the curved end down first, then looping around and crossing each end to make a pretzel shape. Carefully move to the sheet pan.
- Preheat oven to bake (use convection bake if you have it) to 450°F/232°C.
- Four at a time, carefully place each dough into the boiling water. Remove pretzel when it floats (about 1 minute each), draining well and placing them back onto the cookie sheets.
Bake Pretzels (50 minutes)
- Beat egg (or add 1/3 cup or 80 ml almond milk) and 1/4 cup (60 ml) water together in a small bowl. Brush mixture on evenly on each pretzel.
- Sprinkle finishing salt and/or dried herbs evenly onto each pretzel.
- Place sheet pans in the oven, baking for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the pretzels are evenly brown. Rotate and switch racks halfway through (to ensure even baking).
- Remove and place on cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes.
- If any remain, store in airtight bag at room temperature for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.