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a stack of homemade pretzels on a plate
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5 from 8 votes

Homemade Soft German Pretzels (Brezeln)

These pretzels are GOLD! Make authentic German soft Brezeln with confidence that taste just like from a German bakery and will impress everyone! They use real lye and that is NOTHING to be scared of!
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time12 mins
Resting Time1 hr
Course: Baking, Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Savory Baking, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Bavarian, German
Keyword: Authentic German pretzel recipe, Authentic Pretzel recipe, Brezel recipe, Easy Homemade Pretzels, German Pretzel Recipe, Homemade German Pretzel Recipe, Homemade Soft Pretzel recipe, Real German pretzel recipe
Servings: 10 pretzels
Calories: 211kcal

Ingredients

Pretzel Dough

Lye Solution

  • 30 grams food-grade lye you could also use baking soda instead of lye. See notes below.
  • 300 milliliters water COLD water

Topping

  • pretzel salt Kosher salt can be substituted, although pretzel salt makes your pretzels really authentic (and look like they came from a German bakery) and it's inexpensive!

Instructions

  • Stir together the Luke warm (barely warm) water, brown sugar and yeast and allow to bubble up, this should take 5 minutes. If it's not getting bubbly, your water may have been too hot or your yeast is bad. You'll have to repeat this step.
    15 grams brown sugar, 4 grams active dry yeast, 275 milliliters water
  • Sift together the flour and salt, and add in the butter and the bubbly yeast mixture. Knead the dough on the low setting for 8 to 10 minutes using the dough hook.
    500 grams all-purpose flour, 10 grams sea salt, 30 grams butter
  • Cover the dough with a piece of wax paper (or a clean linen towel) and let it rest for 5 minutes. This is to help prevent a skin from forming. Start weighing out 80 gram (2.8 ounces) pieces of dough. Alternatively, if you don't have a kitchen scale, you could shape the dough into a long, even thickness log and divide into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into little hot dog bun shapes. Let them cuddle against each other and cover them with wax paper (or a clean linen towel) to again prevent a skin from developing on the surface of the dough. No need to let them rest.
  • Now it’s time to shape your pretzels. I recorded a short video for you for this step. No flouring the surface is needed. In fact, if your hands ever get to dry, keep some olive oil close to oil your hands with. You will have both hands on hot dog bun shaped pretzel dough with the long side horizontal towards your body. You will start pulling dough with your thumbs towards the ends of the dough piece, making the ends tapered, while keeping a bigger “belly” in the middle of the dough piece, about 2.5 feet in length (75 cm). You will then cross over the ends at the middle and attach them to the belly. Make sure you stretch them out a little bit before you let them rest. It’s probably best to just watch the video on this one!
  • Transfer the pretzels on sheets of wax paper or silicone baking mats, cover with a clean linen towel, and let them rest and develop for about 30 minutes. Then stretch each pretzel out a little more after the dough has relaxed. Refrigerate or freeze them for 30 minutes (I freeze mine). This makes them a lot easier to handle and won’t make them stick to the wax paper when removing them to dip them into the lye solution.
  • Prepare your lye solution in a well-ventilated area (like standing under a vent hood set to high or ideally being outside) because of potential fumes. I also recommend wearing a cloth or medical grade face mask and rubber gloves to be extra safe (luckily everyone should have these at home by now). Add the premeasured lye (it comes in dry granules) into COLD water, not the over way around. At this point, I like to step to the side for about 10 to 15 seconds to let potential fumes evaporate. Then carefully combine with a whisk until the solution is clear. Now dip the par-frozen pretzels using a steel skimmer (you could also use two forks) for 5 seconds each before transferring them using your skimmer onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (I have found the baking mats work better in releasing the pretzels after baking, so it may be time to invest in some). 
    30 grams food-grade lye, 300 milliliters water
  • In Bavaria, you will cut the belly of the pretzels to let them intentionally expand there. In other parts of Germany, you will allow your pretzels to crack open wherever they wish. To make a Bavarian belly, take a small, sharp knife and cut along the belly to enable it to rise during the baking. Then sprinkle with the pretzel salt (some people only like their bellies sprinkled, but you can sprinkle the whole pretzel). You could also add shredded cheese or seeds onto the pretzels instead of the pretzel salt (if adding seeds, I like to dip the pretzel in the seeds instead of sprinkling them on). Pumpkin seeds are my favorite seeds to add.
    pretzel salt
  • Bake at 355° Fahrenheit or 180° Celsius (convection/Umluft setting) for about 12 minutes or until golden brown (I like to rotate them after 6 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before enjoying on their own, with butter or Obatzda, a Bavarian cheese spread that I love so much!

Notes

  • No Lye? Use baking soda instead. Dissolve 2/3 cup of the baked baking soda in 2 cups of water for your dipping solution. To get a more authentic pretzel taste, bake your baking soda before preparing the solution. On a baking sheet covered with foil, evenly sprinkle on the baking soda and bake for an hour at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius), making it more alkaline and closer to a PH value of lye. Then proceed with making the solution.
  • Preparing a bunch of pretzels for Oktoberfest or a party? Follow all steps up to the point of sparkling them with salt and baking them. Instead freeze the lye-dipped (and belly-cut if doing that) pretzels. I first let them freeze on the baking sheet, and then transfer them to a freezer-safe container or bag. Once ready to bake, briefly spray or run through cold water, then sprinkle with salt and bake according to instructions.
  • Want large pretzels? Divide the entire dough by 3 and brush on the lye solution (brush twice) using a pastry brush instead of dipping the pretzels. They may bake for just a couple minutes longer. Make sure to still rotate the baking sheet in your oven about 6 minutes into baking.

Nutrition

Calories: 211kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 6mg | Sodium: 410mg | Potassium: 60mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 75IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 2mg