The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pretzel Rolls (Laugenweck)

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GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

Pretzel Rolls (Laugenweck)

 

Pretzel Rolls (Laugenweck) 

Interestingly enough "pretzel bread" is the one bread that in our collective psyche seems to top all others. No matter what other bread you may have tasted and enjoyed in Germany, “pretzel bread” is the one thing that people seem to remember above all else. And why not? When done right, it IS addictive. A good pretzel roll or “Laugenweck” should be slightly crunchy on the outside, have a deep brown color with a milky-white, if slightly browned, cross on top and be soft and chewy on the inside. If you have never eaten the real thing you don’t know what you’ve missed. There was a bakery in my hometown where people used to trek from the surrounding region just because their pretzels were THAT good. (As things go with German commercial baking these days, though, theirs are only a faint memory now of what they used to be years ago, too – I was really disappointed when I bought one last August as I was visiting my mom...)

 

Pretzel rolls make the best hearty sandwiches, and while they have become popular lately as “hamburger buns”, I prefer them just with butter and maybe a good, strong cheese. (A word on those “hamburger buns” – unless they were made the traditional way, what you probably ate was a weak imitation of the real thing; but if you like that, imagine what these actually taste like...) They are best eaten fresh on the day they are baked, and you can even toast them back to their original glory a day later. They will freeze fairly well, but the salt on top in conjunction with the crust will have a tendency to render them soggy and mottled-looking after a few days. If you must freeze them, thaw them on the countertop OUTSIDE of their bag. The German “Laugenweck” literally translates to “lye roll”, or what a witty friend called “pipe cleaner roll”. Let’s just say that Germans have a reputation for precision for a reason, but obviously we’re not that good at marketing ourselves. “Pretzel roll” sounds SO much prettier than “lye roll”, and of course you wouldn’t use pipe cleaner for these, but food-grade sodium hydroxide.

That’s right, folks. Sodium hydroxide.

There are all sorts of knock-off recipes out there, but if you want to make REAL pretzels and pretzel rolls, you HAVE to use lye. Anything else won’t give you the same results. My grandma’s cookbook for example makes the solution with something like water and wood ashes – NOT the same thing. As caustic as lye is, it will convert to a simple salt on top of the pastry when baked, giving it the characteristic beautiful, deep brown color.

So, I am including a disclaimer. Not because I think I’d be liable in whatever way, but I think you should be aware of what you will be dealing with:

DISCLAIMER: Sodium hydroxide is highly caustic, even at lower concentrations, and I highly recommend wearing long sleeves, goggles and gloves when handling it. Use all stainless steel equipment as the lye will eat through aluminum and coated baking sheets over time. ALWAYS TAKE GREAT CARE WHEN STORING/HANDLING SODIUM HYDROXIDE AND FOLLOW ALL SAFETY DIRECTIONS ON THE PACKAGE THE SODIUM HYDROXIDE CRYSTALS CAME IN.What you will need (besides the actual dough):

1. pretzel salt - a coarse salt that will not simply melt into the pastry but stay intact during baking. Here’s the difference between “normal” salt (pictured is “real” salt) and pretzel salt:

2. Food-grade sodium hydroxide, available for example from Essential Depot.

3. 1 stainless steel stockpot large enough to hold the water comfortably (see recipe)

4. 1 stainless steel skimmer

5. 1 – 2 stainless steel half sheets

6. 1 sturdy metal scraper

7. chemical resistant gloves (preferably), but any kind would already be a good protection

8. goggles, long-sleeve shirt

I found this originally on an expat German forum somewhere on the Web with very vague information as to how strong the lye should be, but by now we have tweaked this recipe so much that I can regard it as our original. The very first time I tried it, I used an 8% lye solution, which produced really dark, really blistered, and really inedible pretzels. :) 

 

Pretzel Rolls (Laugenweck)
(Original Recipe.)

For 10 rolls or pretzels:
725 g bread flour
5 g salt
7 g yeast
375 g water
5 g diastatic malt powder

Pretzel salt for topping.

For the lye (at a 3.5% solution):
2 l water
70 g sodium hydroxide crystals

Dissolve the malt powder in water. Add the dry ingredients to a mixer bowl with a dough hook, slowly add the water and keep kneading until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the bowl. If it appears to be too dry, add a little bit more water until you achieve the desired consistency. Let rise until doubled, preferably retard overnight. On baking day, preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C). Slowly add the sodium hydroxide to the COLD water, close the pot and bring the lye to a rolling boil, then turn off the heat. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces, each weighing about 110 g. Spray the stainless steel baking sheets well with cooking spray.

CAUTION: NEVER, EVER ADD SODIUM HYDROXIDE TO BOILING OR EVEN REALLY HOT WATER AS IT IS HEATING ON THE STOVE – IT WILL CAUSE THE POT TO INSTANTLY BOIL OVER AND POSSIBLY SPLATTER YOU WITH LYE. (Believe me, I have been there – filed this experience under “What was I thinking???”)

 

Shape each piece into a round and be sure to seal them well on the bottom. Proof them at the most to 1/2 proof, not fully. Dip the rolls into the hot lye upside down, remove with the skimmer, drain well and place onto the baking sheet. One half sheet will comfortably fit 10 rolls. Score them with a serrated knife or razor blade. Traditionally, these rolls are scored with a cross on the top. Sprinkle pretzel salt on top.

Bake until they are a deep brown and register at least 180 F (85 C) in the middle. The light part of the roll should remain mostly light and not darken very much.

TIP: Use a scale to make sure they are all the same the weight. If you cannot get your hands on diastatic malt powder (available online for example from home brewing stores), just use brown sugar. Depending on how wet the rolls were when they were put on the baking sheet and on how well they were sealed at the bottom before dipping, they may stick to the baking sheet and appear not to want to come off – use a good scraper, but try not to rip off the bottom.

[Printable Recipe]

mkelly27's picture
mkelly27

I made pretzel rolls yesterday at the bakery I do some breadwork at.  In developing a new product idea for them, I decided to fill them (like a jelly doughnut) with cheese.  I was very pleased with the results.  i used "baked baking soda" for my lye bath, it's safer but doesn't quite give me the dark brown crust.

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

does not give you the same results. You HAVE to use sodium hydroxide. Cheese-filled sounds yummy!

sonia101's picture
sonia101

OMG these look gorgeous!! Now you have made me hungry, I'm craving pretzels and fleischsalat lol

I score my buns the same way but they never seem to open up as much as yours, would you have any idea what I am doing wrong?

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

You have to score them deeply enough and make sure that the cut is open all the way before you bake them. They do have a tendency to "heal" themselves. Fleischsalat does sound really good right now... :)

sonia101's picture
sonia101

Ok thanks so much I'll give it a try....actually I might make some now :)

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

Thanks for your detailed formula and method.  The photography so great too - thanks again

Nice baking.

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

They are fun to make.

sonia101's picture
sonia101

They are still baking in the oven but it worked...Thank YOU so much!! :) I was so excited about trying it out I scored them before the lye bath...ooops lol. Can't wait till they are finished so I can eat one.

 

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

That's funny, but hey, they still look gorgeous, and the scoring looks perfect

MiserDD's picture
MiserDD

Do you use diastatic malt powder made from wheat or barley?  (King Arthur uses barley, and I've seen others use wheat.)

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

but I'm pretty sure it was barley-based.

MiserDD's picture
MiserDD

I’ve been making pretzels for over 20 years with various recipes (was really hard to figure out what I was doing wrong back before the days of the internet).  I’ve always used preferment wort for my sugar conversion vice diastatic malt powder (something I learned from a baker in Germany) and lye.  As I have to keep the wort in my freezer to keep it from going bad, so I’m trying your method to see how I like it.  One question though, I was always told not to boil the lye as it would make it like a Laugengebäck bagel vice a pretzel, your thoughts?

Thanks

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

so we used boiling lye. But you are correct, commercially they use cold lye, to my knowledge.

MiserDD's picture
MiserDD

I often make pretzel bread in a French type loaf.  I followed your recipe (but used less lye… hence the lighter color) fully.  Any idea what causes it to explode outside of my cuts?  (Sorry for the poor quality picture.  We had eaten the bread before I noticed the issue.)  This happens often when I do French type loaves, even when I use different recipes.

GermanFoodie's picture
GermanFoodie

occurs when your bread breaks due to stresses in the loaf; it's why we score them to begin with. It can be ameliorated by the way you shape it, and how long you let it rest, as well as how and how deeply it is scored. We used to make a bread that would always develop "noses" on one side, no matter what we did, so we started scoring it deeply down that side and increased proofing times. That fixed it. B/c of how a French loaf is typically shaped, it may have to do w/ that. Try and experiment w/ shaping/resting/scoring and see what works.

Hope this helps!

PS. Also, the lye seals off the surface, so that increases tension on the surface as well.