The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Soft Pretzel Problem

davep83's picture

Soft Pretzel Problem

Hi all

A quick question if anyone can help. This is my first time trying to bake. I'm trying to make soft pretzels using the recipe below:

3.7ml of Yeast

187 ml warm water

1/2 Tablespoon Sugar

550ml of Plain White flour

1 teaspoon of salt 3 Tablespoons of melted butter.

Then i use a dough mixer and mix for 9 minutes before letting it rise for 1 hour. (this recipe makes about 4 pretzel around 4.5 oz each)

When i go to dip the pretzel in boiling water and baking soda they go really soft and stretch out of shape.

Does anyone have any ideas as to what I'm doing wrong. Too little flour, too much water? Maybe need to refrigerate before dipping (although at pretzel shop like wetzels etc they seem to dip straight after shaping them.

Also what would be the difference any difference using vegatable instead of the melted butter, and how would malt change the taste? Too many question I know.

Sorry. Any help much appreciated.



Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

Seems like the hydration is very low - 34%.  Is that right?

Mary Clare

Frosty's picture

I place the pretzels on a slotted spoon and dip them in the baking soda solution (need to get some lye) for 30 seconds and then lift them out.  Haven't had a problem with stretching.

I've used Alton Brown's recipe with great success.


Boboshempy's picture

I use Lye but definitely not boiling water! I think dropping your dough into boiling water is messing up your dough. And yes, you should refrigerate it before dipping it in any solution.

Check out this recipe, it is no fail:

Tell me if this helps.



copyu's picture

Just a heads-up...Your measurements in "ml" are VOLUME measurements, like cups and spoons...[Did you convert those yourself?] GRAMS (mass/weight) or even ounces for flour, etc, would be more useful for analyzing your formula

I've read German blogs that say "NO butter may be used in the formula" but that may be because the Germans usually use a STRONG alkali, sodium hydroxide,  instead of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) which is a very WEAK alkali

Pretzel formulas usually call for some fat; vegetable oil would possibly(?) be better than butter or lard (based on a few things I've read, but not my own experience!) If you really want the taste of butter, add it after the pretzels are baked

I haven't used this recipe for about 25 years, but it works OK with no deformation of the pretzels in the boiling phase:

190g/1.5 cups Flour (AP or bread flour, or mixed flours) ***PLUS 160g/1.25 cups extra flour after first mixing***

2 Tblsp vegetable shortening/oil

4g (quarter teasp) instant yeast (or 7g/one sachet) of active dry yeast, proofed 

2 Tblsp salt (or less) to taste

1 Tblsp sugar

up to 250ml (a cup or so) of water

Mix together the above ingredients for about 3 minutes (machine OK!) and then add the other 160g (1.25 cups) flour. Mix again and rest for 10 minutes. Knead by hand until dough is not sticky (about 8-10minutes) Put dough into an oiled bowl, cover with plastic or towel and leave for 40-60 minutes in a warm, draft-free place. (Inside the oven or microwave, with a bowl or large cup of boiling water next to it speeds things up a bit)

Pre-heat oven to 210-220°C (425°F)

If the dough's risen a bit, knead again for 1 minute and then divide the dough into 6, 8 or 12 pieces. Shape pretzels and leave to rise for another 30-40 minutes

Then do the boiling routine...slash the fattest part of the pretzels and sprinkle with kosher salt (or similar coarse salt) and bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes

Best of luck!


abbryan's picture

I've used Alton Brown's recipe, as well as the NYTimes recipe above from Zingerman's (& actually had the Zingerman's pretzels, although I think mine are better).  In the past, I've used the baking soda, but now using lye (sodium hydroxide)--which is well worth the effort to obtain some.  I've also used both butter and lard (the later being the most traditional).  I think I actually like the butter version better, even if dipped in lye, contrary to previous post.  I've also done both commercial and sourdough versions and all-purpose and bread flour-based.  I like the slightly higher fat content of Alton's recipe with butter, but use bread flour, malt powder, and a lye-dip then actual pretzel salt (only if you can't find or don't want to order pretzel salt should you use kosher--they're made differently.  Prezel salt won't dissolve as easily.  Kosher can dissolve and leave your prezels too salty w/o a way to brush it off).

Dough should be smooth and moist, but not sticky.  You can also use plenty of no-stick spray to help on that front.  A rest overnight in the fridge will help them not fall apart and will help with flavor development, although I've still let them proof at room temp for a bit before dipping.  They are pretty delicate, so, I have them directly next to my dipping solution to gently pick up and slip them in the solution.  Then use a greased spatula to flip and remove.  I don't use a spoon or anything when putting them in, because it's just something else for it to stick to and deform them.  Also, doing 1 at a time helps.  You can also try a simmering solution, rather than full boil, which will be more delicate on them.


Good luck,


abbryan's picture

Also, fresh pretzels go stale nearly instantly.  For the ones you want to eat right out of the oven, add salt prior to baking.  For the rest, don't add salt.  Then, as soon as cooled to room temp, freeze them.  To reheat, remove from freezer, spray/brush/dab a light coat of water on top, sprinkle with salt while still frozen, then pop in oven (or toaster oven) at 350F for a few min--they'll taste nearly like the fresh ones.

copyu's picture

about the kosher salt!

I wasn't actually 'advocating' it, merely transcribing the original recipe I was given, maybe 35-40 years ago without thinking about it too much, but you're absolutely correct! (That recipe also included the instruction to use boiling water with baking soda in it, but I know that to be a totally pointless exercise, so I left it out...It HAS to be NaOH [or very close in strength] for the proper 'skin' and color)

I've never actually used kosher salt on pretzels, but suspect I've eaten plenty of pretzels that used it...(New York, 1950's.) Some of them that I remember were as you if the salt had dissolved and spread all over the surface, with no way to remove or avoid it. A very good point!




Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

550 ml (volume) flour comes out to 330 g flour on my scale.  That would mean a 56% hydration.  I prefer 50% so I would add more flour or less water.  Try 165 ml of water instead.  


davep83's picture

Hi all,

Thank you very much for your input so far. I'll go through and try some of your suggestions during the week and let you know how things turn out.



davep83's picture

Hey all,

Abbyran, just posted something talking about pretzels going stale (or at least starting to become firm) very quickly after being baked.

Apart from my boiling issue, this is something else that I'm noticing.

Is there a way to keep them tasting nice and fresh thoughout the day, just like when they first come out of the oven?

Just to explain the reason for questions is my niece has asked me if we could help her set up a pretzel stall at her school fate/fair.

Me, the person who can't say no and the one who has never baked says 'Yeah sure" Me and my big mouth :)

Anyways, at the moment when they are freshly baked and come out the oven they taste really nice. But after they sit for a little they start becoming firm (stale etc).

So once I fix the boiling problem and the stale issue we should be right.

Thanks all.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

She won't have to worry about stale pretzels.  Customers might even line up for them!  :)

oregoncrepe's picture

We have been making commercial quantities of pretzels for just a few weeks, based on Hamelman's recipe.  We freeze them after the second proof, then dip in lye, then salt and bake on Silicone sheets.  Little/no sticking problem and they spring up fine.

Some things we've learned: Buns have to drain well so they lye water does not make a pocket under the bun.   

You might try parbaking and finish at the school with a portable toaster oven.