The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Pretzels

SulaBlue's picture

Sourdough Pretzels

Having built up a starter to bake a double batch of rosemary sourdough loaves, I had quite a bit still left over. Not that this wasn't planned - only the use for it changed. Having gotten up late on Sunday and everyone having different plans, the idea of sourdough pancakes went out the window and I was left to ponder what to do. I opened Nancy Silverton's "Breads from the La Brea Bakery" and it instantly flopped to the picture of a pretzel being made. I instantly knew what I was going to make.

I forgot the 2 teaspoons of salt in the dough itself, but I like the way it turned out, so I'm going to omit it here. Silverton also called for barley malt syrup, which I don't have and replaced with agave nectar. Silverton has instructions to cut the dough into 18 3-ounce portions, but this seems to be incorrect. I only got 12, which is mathematically correct as 20+9+6=35/3=11.6.

These turned out so nicely that I'll be submitting them to Wild Yeast's Yeastspotting

Sourdough Hard Pretzels

2 day Recipe

Adapted from Nancy Silverton's "Breads from the La Brea Bakery"

Makes 12 crisp pretzels

Day 1

6 oz cool water, ~70F

9 oz white starter, 100% hydration

20 oz unbleached white bread flour

1 T agave nectar


  1. Place liquid ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix just to combine so that flour is easier to incorporate and then add flour. Once flour is incorporated knead until dough is smooth and firm, about 8 minutes. This is a VERY firm dough, and may be rough on your mixer - keep a close eye on it and STOP if you hear or smell signs of distress.
  2. Divide the dough into 3 oz sections and tuck them into rough balls. Lay on a parchment-covered sheet pan and allow to rest, lightly covered, for 45 mins.
  3. Remove one ball of dough from the covered pan and, using your hands, roll it into an 18-20 inch snake, keeping the dough as even as possible. (Silverton likes hers with thick and thin portions, but I prefer evenness.) Use the method of your choice to form into a the traditional pretzel shape. As you work the dough you will notice it is very dry and forms a skin. It may actually be hard to roll due to wanting to slide from lack of tackiness. Air bubbles inside the dough snake are normal and probably won't roll out. The thinner you get your rope, the crunchier your pretzels will be.
  4. Place formed pretzels back onto the parchment covered baking sheet, slide the baking sheet into a plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.
Day 2 1/4C Egg Beaters Kosher Salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. When oven is hot remove first tray from refrigerator. Brush the tops of the pretzels with egg substitute (Or beaten egg) and then sprinkle with kosher salt.
  3. Bake IMMEDIATELY so that salt does not have time to dissolve - about 20-25 minutes. Pretzels will puff and turn golden brown and crispy.
  4. Move pretzels to a cooling rack and then bake the second pan. 
If you have a big enough oven, or one that is more reliable than mine, you can probably bake both pans at once. They bake so quickly I just didn't see the problem with baking in two batches. You should probably go ahead and have your mustard on hand - you'll barely be able to wait until these are cool enough to eat.



susanfnp's picture

I have been eyeing these pretzels since I first got that book. Good to know you can cut down on the salt. Your shaping is perfect!

Susan (Wild Yeast)

ehanner's picture


Those are great looking pretzels and a very nice photo of the project. Is this recipe a crunchy or softer style? I'm gathering from you mention of mustard they are the softer variety, which we love. Great job with these!


LeadDog's picture

I made sourdough pretzels last month.  There sure are fun and easy to make.  You are right about getting the mustard ready for them when they come out of the oven.  I wrote up my method on my site here

And yours look really great.

Dave W's picture
Dave W

Now funily enough I had a go at making these the other week, and they turned ot fine, we eat some as soon as they cooled and the tasted great, but I left the rest for a day or two but found they went so hard I could hardly eat them. Do they only keep for such a short time or did somthing go horribly wrong ?


Dave W


SulaBlue's picture

@Susan: Thank you for the compliment. They were super-easy to shape. I even got the knack of the "lift, twirl and fold" quite quickly. Since they have such a smooth surface they're very easy to handle.

@Eric: They're more of a hard/crunchy style. Like bread they do soften if stored in a sealed container. Also, the salt on the outside is hydrophilic nature of the coarse kosher salt, I found that they got "moist" feeling on the outside after a few days. My bread baking has inspired me to buy a new camera - so even better photos should be showing up soon! I've been taking all my photos with the camera on my Motorola Razr!

@LeadDog: Yours look wonderful. I like that very round shape yours have, and they're perfectly golden! Were they very chewy, or harder?

@Dave: Mine were very hard and crisp at first. They softened a bit after a day or so and became a bit hard and slightly chewy. I love the hard Bavarian-style pretzels, though, so they're just right for me!

LeadDog's picture

SulaBlue it was the first time I had ever made pretzels so I was very happy how they turned out.  Mine were the soft chewy kind of pretzels.  The formula I came up with uses a little bit of oil so the pretzels stayed soft and didn't get hard.  I ate on them for about a week.

dmsnyder's picture

Your pretzels are featured on Susan's "Yeast Spotting" feature of her as well as the "front page" here. 

Great photo!


glora's picture

I am making sweet roll dough using saf gold yeast at 2.1%.  the sugar is 11% and fat is 12.5%.  I want to overnight ferment this dough so in the morning I can form the cinnamon rolls.  My question to anyone who can help is should the yeast percentage be reduced?  Or, because of enrichments does the percentage stay the same? Any feedback would be appreciated.


Gena Lora