The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Lye Pretzel - with a twist

txfarmer's picture

Sourdough Lye Pretzel - with a twist

Right after I made and posted about lye pretzels last time, arlo brought this article to my attention - ah ha! Who knew lye pretzels are "in fasion" again, does that make up for my 10 year old jeans? :P Still having that whole big jar of lye to use up, I made pretzels again, but the recipe is a combo of the NY Time recipe and Nancy Silverton's Sourdough pretzel recipe, then at the very end, I added my own "TXFarmer spin". I had some cooked red bean left from making mooncakes, so I filled a few of those prezels with sweetened coarsely mashed red bean paste. Delicious! I do apologize if it offends any German TFLers though. :P


Sourdough Pretzel (NYTimes+Nancy Silverton+my own craziness)

-makes 12 pretzels, each about 110g

water, 218g

starter (100%), 207

bread flour, 567g

barley malt syrup, 21g

salt, 2tsp

lard, 23g (Yes lard! Butter would work but lard gives a better/more authentic flavor, as well as whiter crumb. I have a big container of lard in my fridge at all times, embrace pig fat!)

1. Mix and knead very well. This is a dry dough, similar to bagel, but do knead well. I kneaded by hand since my mixer was doing other more important things like whipping 12 eggs, it' took some elbow grease but could be done.

2. No bulk rise, divide dough into 12 portions, round, and rest for 45min.

3. Shape into pretzels, do keep middle portion fat, and two ends pointy.

To add filling, first shape the dough into a batard, then roll into a long oval, add filling (not too much though!), roll up, seal well, roll out to desired length

4. Rise at room temp for 1 hour, the dough would've visibly expanded, then put in fridge for 12 to 24 hours.

5. mix 30g of lye into 1000g of water, wait for 10 min for it to completely dissolve, the water would become warm. Dip each pretzel in lye water for 30 sec, put back on baking sheet, score at the "fat belly" (if you have filling inside, score at an angle so the filling won't leak out), spread coarse sea salt on top (not for my red bean paste ones).

6. Bake for 20 to 25min at 400F.


Tight even crumb, just what I like. I didn't wait for the lye water to dry before scoring, so if you look closely, the edges of the cuts are yellow, need to improve on that.


The ones with filling are REALLY good, this way I don't have to dip the pretzel in other stuff. There are many other filling possibilities, PB&J? Nutella? Pumpkin pie? Maple cream? BBQ pork? Curry chicken? Endless.

----------------------------Completely unrelated-------------------------------

Here's a great coconut cupcake recipe I made a few days ago for my running friends,


I highly recommend this epicurious recipe, I did use cake flour rather than AP flour in the recipe, and used a cream cheese icing rather than the original one, both the taste and texture are really good.

The key of the recipe is "reduced coconut milk", I have some leftover, and I will be dunking everything in it! Even if you don't make the cake, make this!

Submitting to Yeastspotting


Dillbert's picture

veddy nice looking pretzels!

lye has actually never gone "out of style" - it is the preferred method.

however given the "gosh I just fed my toddler two tablespoons of lye crystals, who do I sue?" mentality, the home use of lye has waned.

but, imho it still has the best taste asnd effect for a real pretzel.

txfarmer's picture

Yeah, I like how lye gives these pretzels unique color and taste.

LindyD's picture

Black beans would be tasty, too!

txfarmer's picture

Good idea, they certainly would!

teketeke's picture

Hello, txfarmer.

I like your idea to use red bean paste for pretzels, and my son and I love red bean paste!  Your pretzels are looking great!

Thank you for posting the cupcake recipe! My daughter is a cupcake monster!  I will copy the recipe to make the one with my daughter.  Thank you, txfarmer!

Best wishes,


txfarmer's picture

Hope you and your daughter enjoy the cupcakes, they are very coconut-y!

Franko's picture

txfarmer you've done it again!

You really do make the most amazing things, and you do it so well. Pretzels are something I enjoy, but not enough to actually go to the trouble of making them. Your idea for a BBQ pork pretzel certainly got my attention though. Would you make it with an Asian style BBQ pork or a Southern US style pulled pork? I'd go with either but probably lean more towards the pulled pork, maybe with a mustard based dressing of some sort. I'd be interested to know what you'd recommend? Your pretzels are just brilliant!




txfarmer's picture

As long as they are kept fairly dry, I would just use whatever I have on hand.

pd360's picture

Very nice!  Do you have any hints for dipping in the lye?  Mine are falling apart and stretching.  When they are resting in the fridge, are they on a greased sheet, or parchement?  They always stick and when I go to pick them up for the dip they deform...  Thanks for any help.


txfarmer's picture

The shaped loaves are put on a greased sheet and put in fridge overnight. After that the dough should be fairly stiff and firm, I had no trouble handling and dipping them. If you don't refridgirator your dough, that might be something you want to try. If they are still too soft then your recipe may have too much liquid.

pd360's picture

i think my recipe was too wet.  I followed yours exactly, including greasing the sheet and refrigeration and they came out great and were easy to handle. Thanks!

Boboshempy's picture

I made these and they came fantastic!

Two things though...

1. I did find that the dough is not the easiest to roll out smoothly. I took my time, let it periodically relax and continue, but surface was not as smooth as the pictures above. Any tips on this or suggested videos on pretzel shaping would be greatly appreciated because I will be making these many more times.

2. I am sure this is due to the retarding in the fridge, but my pretzels came out super blistered...I'm talking SUPER BLISTERED! Mine looked nothing like the finished products above. Were these really retarding in the fridge over night? Has anyone else find that this is what happens to theirs?

Love it! Thanks for the great post and great pictures!


txfarmer's picture

1. The "trick" to shaping is like any other breads: you need to make sure the surface tension is tight. So when you roll it up, make sure the skin is pulled tight.

2. Yup, these were retarded - that's the thing I like about the formula, splittin git into 2 days so I can manage easily. I think your dough might be too wet if there are this many blisters. Or over proofed, which might also lead to surface not being smooth.

jimbodeuxe's picture

txfarmer, wow. I stumbled upon this post of yours a couple weeks ago and was so taken with it and those beautiful pictures that I had to give it a try. I decided to go all the way and ordered lye, which I received just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. I did not achieve the perfection in form that you have pictured here, but it wasn't bad for a first try and nobody seemed to care ... they were gone in no time flat with the kids running in from the pool to grab "just one more" while they were still hot.

 I have never worked with lye before and took all the precautions (long gloves, long sleeves and new goggles for the occasion). Maybe it is just me, but while I treated the chemical with all due respect, I did not feel it was a particularly risky process. It did pose some technique issues, however, that I would love to get some pointers and tips on:

- You want to use non-reactive materials for anything that comes into contact with the lye. So no aluminum baking sheets or utensils, no parchment paper which the pretzel soaked would eat through, right? 

I decided to use my gloved hand rather than a utensil to move the pretzels, one by one, into and out of the 30 second lye water bath. OK so far?

Next, where to put the slimy pretzel? The lye beads are contained in a plastic bottle, but would wet activated lye be ok on plastic? I decided to chance it and I put them on a flexible plastic cutting board I use as a peel and it *seemed* to  hold up. When I had six pretzels, enough for an oven batch, I salted them and then to the oven.

The bread baking pans I have are those large plain aluminum ones and I did not want to use those because of the lye. So, I decided on the baking stone.  But when it came to take the first batch out of the oven, half were sticking strong to the stone and a couple ripped their bottoms. I had considered dredging the dough pretzels through corn flour or semolina but I hadn't recalled seeing anything but shiny bottoms on the pretzels I had eaten before.

So what to do? Use a pan of some sort, maybe with oil?


txfarmer's picture

I have used both baking parchment and baking mat to put lye dipped pretzels on (of course the parchment/mat was used to line the baking pan) with no problem. To move them, I used wooden chopsticks (THE most useful kitchen tool IMO. Yes, I am Chinese :P.)