Today I’m sharing The Best Sourdough Soft Pretzels Recipe with you and I am thrilled about it. Chewy and tender, these golden brown sourdough soft pretzels have classic crunchy pretzel salt on them, but they also have toasty sesame seeds.
The sesame adds a super subtle nuttiness that plays beautifully with the butter lavished on the fresh-from-the-oven pretzels. Just see if you can resist!
Sourdough pretzels are far less labour intensive than sourdough bread, and require less baby sitting of your sourdough starter. You use unfed sourdough starter directly from your refrigerator or crock.
Because you don’t have to judge when to feed your starter in respect to when you want to bake, this makes sourdough pretzels them an ideal foray into sourdough baking. Besides all that, they’re just plain divine and I honestly prefer them to sourdough bread in many circumstances.
They make the ultimate snack, of course, but don’t stop there. Serve the best sourdough soft pretzels with soups, stews, chilis, salads, and more.
Sourdough Soft Pretzels
As I mentioned above, I use unfed sourdough starter for this soft pretzel recipe. That means you can use discarded starter when you FEED your starter OR the sourdough starter you neglected and shoved to the back of your fridge!
Simply stir it, measure out half a cup for a standard batch or one cup for a double batch of soft pretzels, and proceed with the recipe. You can also feed your starter and then promptly forget about it again.
Speaking of unfed starter, I’m sure someone wants to know whether they can use freshly fed starter. The short answer is yes, but it won’t have as pronounced a sourdough flavour and you’ll need to watch it because it will rise faster.
If your dough is dry and crumbly, please keep adding water 1 tablespoon at a time until it is more workable. Because sourdough starters can have different levels of viscosity and liquidity based on a a whole host of variables, it is important to remember to pay attention to the feel of the dough.
I prefer to use whole milk as the milk component in these pretzels. It provides a little richness in an otherwise lean dough. If all you have is skim milk, 1%, or 2%, though, it’ll work!
As you mix and knead the dough, if you find it to have trouble becoming smooth -for instance, if it has a lot of crumbly bits that won’t incorporate easily- knead in a tablespoon or two of water.
Most recipes call for turning the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Hold off on the flour for this until you’ve turned your dough out.
If it is still slightly sticky, you can lightly flour the surface. You may find the dough doesn’t stick, though, in which case extra flour is totally unnecessary!
Despite it being called a “pretzel boil”, you’re really looking for more of a simmer with your water. This is one occasion where more is not better.
I love the look of using black and white sesame seeds on the pretzels. It’s not strictly necessary, it’s just fun. If all you can find is white sesame seeds, go with it!
Regarding salt. You can certainly use kosher salt, but I prefer to use the slower-melting, coarser pretzel salt for the job. That can be found in bulk foods stores, King Arthur Flour’s online catalogue, and amazon.com.
Use these to make the Best Sourdough Soft Pretzels:
The Best Sourdough Soft Pretzels
Ingredients for dough:
- 4 cups bread flour 1 pound 1 ounce by weight
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 1/2 ounce or 14 grams by weight
- 2 teaspoons SAF or instant yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup unfed sourdough starter 4 ounces or 113 grams by weight
Ingredients for pretzel boil:
- 2 quarts water
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
Ingredients for toppings:
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- pretzel salt
To Make the Dough by Hand:
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Set the whisk aside and switch to a sturdy wooden spoon. Stir in the milk and sourdough starter until a soft dough forms. Turn onto a generously floured surface and knead, for 15 minutes adding small amounts of flour as needed to keep the dough from adhering to the counter. You do not want a firm dough… it should be fairly slack, a little tacky and soft, yet smooth. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
To Make the Dough by Stand Mixer:
- In the work-bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Mix on low about 30 seconds, or just to combine dry ingredients. With mixer still on low, carefully pour in the milk and sourdough starter. Continue mixing on low until you have a smooth, soft, slightly tacky dough. Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in bulk and puffy, about an hour or so.
To Make the Dough by Bread Machine:
- Add the milk, sourdough starter, flour, sugar, and yeast to the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “Dough” or “Dough Only” cycle and hit start. Allow the cycle to complete.
To Form the Pretzels:
- Line three half sheet pans with silpats. Set next to your work area.
- Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface.
For Traditional Pretzel Shaped Pretzels:
- Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of a Kindergarten pencil (or your index finger.) Lay the snake of dough in a u-shape. Twist the two ends together twice, keeping the base of the “u” open, then fold the twisted ends down onto the base of the “u” and gently press in place. Transfer the pretzels onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between them. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.
To Form Easier Pretzel Rods:
- Use a bench knife to cut the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece like play-dough until you have a snake of dough about the circumference of a Kindergarten pencil (or your index finger.) Transfer the pretzels onto the lined baking sheets, being sure to leave generous amounts of room between them. They will expand both as they rise and again as they boil and bake. When you have dealt with all the dough, cover the pans with tea towels and let them rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffy looking, about 20 minutes.
To Cook the Pretzels:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a stainless steel or other non-reactive pan (enameled cast-iron, tempered glass, etc…) When water simmers, add the baking soda. Gently lift the pretzels or pretzel rods one at a time into the boiling water. (You can boil more than one at a time, but be sure not to crowd the the pan as they will expand as they boil. Let simmer for about 45 seconds, flip the pieces and simmer for another 45 seconds-1 minute. Use a slotted spatula or spoon to drain and return each piece to its place on the pan. Continue until all pieces have been boiled and returned to the pan.
- Sprinkle each pretzel with about a teaspoon of sesame seeds and pretzel salt to taste. Place pans in oven and bake the pretzels at least until golden brown (at least 18 minutes), but you can bake until they are deep brown which is my preference (closer to 22-24 minutes in my oven.)
- Let stand for at least 5 minutes before eating. These are best enjoyed warm, but can be stored in non-airtight container such as a bowl covered with a clean tea towel or a paper bag that is cinched or clipped shut at room temperature for a couple of days. They can be quickly reheated prior to serving.