Tied Up in Knots: Pretzel Rolls

Our friends Jim and Colleen often host us at their home, and they have gotten me hooked on the pretzel bread they buy from Heidelberg Bakery in Arlington. It's got classic pretzel flavor and a chewy, salty crust, with a soft and delicious interior. The pretzel bread is so addictive that I decided I should try making my own.

I have tried making my own soft pretzels once before, and it wasn't very successful. But I'm becoming more comfortable working with yeasted breads and I was optimistic about trying King Arthur Flour's recipe for High-Fiber Pretzel Rolls. The recipe is pretty straightforward and it doesn't actually take that much time -- as least as far as yeasted breads go. You dump lukewarm water, butter, salt, all-purpose flour, dry milk, and instant yeast into a bowl, and mix until you get a soft dough (the recipe also calls for hi-maize fiber, but I just substituted more flour).

You let the dough rise until puffy (I let mine rise about 90 minutes), deflate it, and divide it into pieces. I divided the dough into 12 pieces, because some of the recipe comments indicated that the size of the rolls produced by the recipe are huge if you make eight rolls as directed. You roll each piece of dough into a rope, let the dough rest for 10 minutes, form the ropes into pretzel knots, and let the knots rest for another 15 minutes.

After the dough has rested, you boil the rolls in a mixture of baking soda and water. The recipe says that you should boil the rolls for 30 second on each side, and I was vigilant about using a timer and staying as close to the 30 seconds as possible. This is because when I made soft pretzels, the pretzels turned out too bitter and I attribute the problem to too much time in the baking soda bath before baking. After boiling, I put the rolls on baking sheet, sprinkled them with fleur de sel, and baked them.
The rolls were a lovely dark golden brown, although the exterior finish was matte; I think a little egg wash might before baking might have created a more attractive, shiny appearance. I tried a roll warm from the oven and my first impression was that it wasn't very pretzel-y, i.e., it didn't have the distinctive pretzel flavor. It had the right chewy exterior and a nice soft interior, but it seemed to be lacking something.
However, by the next day, I was craving another roll. I'm not sure if the flavor deepened with time, or if it was just a change in my perception -- but by the second day, I had decided that these rolls were delicious. I'll be the first to admit that they do not come close to the Heidelberg Bakery version. But for something I can make at home, with ingredients I keep on hand, and without too much effort -- these rolls were immensely satisfying. They were perfect as a side to a bowl of soup, as the bread for a ham and cheese sandwich, and eaten plain. I consider this recipe a success and will definitely be making these rolls again!

Recipe: "High-Fiber Pretzel Rolls" from King Arthur Flour.

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Louise said…
Your pretzel rolls look just like the King Arthur photo which aren't shiny either. The recipe I use includes barley malt syrup in the boiling water/soda dip. I think that's strictly to boost the pretzel flavor. It also has an egg wash, which is what you suggested for the shine. I've seen soft pretzel recipes that use a lye dip instead, but I don't care to go that route.
Interesting, I've never used barley malt syrup for anything before; lye totally scares me, so I've never tried it, either. Right after I made this recipe, I saw another pretzel recipe that calls for toasting the baking soda in the oven for an hour before you add it to the water bath (see here) -- I wonder if that has an effect on the flavor? I made another batch of pretzel rolls today and I brushed on some egg wash before baking -- I'm much happier with the way they look!