While living in southern Germany I developed a taste for Bavarian style pretzels, along with German beer and sausages. This recipe produces the best pretzels I have had since Germany. I have tried all sorts of recipes, including boiling in a baking soda solution. None come close to this recipe and you don't have to boil them. The secret is lye! German bakers dip their pretzels in a lye solution before salting and baking them. Lye can be dangerous to work with but I will show you my method and the precautions I use. Hold the Hefeweizen until the end.

Yields: 4-6 large Bavarian Pretzels.

Initial prep takes about 20 minutes but since dough needs to ferment and proof, you'll have some time on your hands to do other things.

And lastly... This is my first instructable. I hope it is easy to follow but don't let my writing style discourage you. These pretzels are worth the work!

Step 1: Tools and Ingredients


  • Stand mixer, with dough hook (without it you're mixing and kneading by hand)
  • Digital kitchen scale (not critical, I include measurements for all ingredients)
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • 2 silpat (silicone baking sheets)
  • large mixing bowl (for proofing the dough)
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Silicone pastry brush (for applying lye solution)
  • latex gloves
  • Scraper/ pastry cutter ( a sharp knife will do)
  • Timer with alarm (I use my phone)



  • 2 lb/ 6 Cups: All-Purpose Flour (I use King Arthur. Find one with Malted Barley)
  • 20.5 ounces: Water (room temperature)
  • 1 packet/ 21G: Instant Yeast
  • 7/8 oz/ 1Tbsp+2tsp: Salt
  • 12 oz: Old dough (if this is your first time making, ignore, but save 12 oz of this recipe for next time)

Keep about 1/4 cup extra flour handy to adjust dough consistency

For lye and salting (wear latex gloves and eye protection. Lye can burn like acid, but the opposite pH)

  • 8G/ 1 heaping tsp: Food grade Lye powder (source https://www.amazon.com/Grade-Sodium-Hydroxide-Mic...
  • 8 oz: Water (room temp)
  • Distilled vinegar (keep on hand to neutralize lye in case you splash on your skin

Read up on using lye for baking if you haven't used it before. It's easy to use but requires respect. And use silicone baking sheets! Lye will remove the finish on metals.

  • 3-4 Tbsp: Coarse Sea Salt
<p>Please don't take this the wrong way, the fact that you are baking pretzels or brezeln alone is great achievement. Especially because you are using lye and not just baking soda. And, you are using old dough (or pate fermente as the bakers are calling this). I am not criticizing your approach, I'd like to offer some suggestions. I've been on a pretzel baking quest for many years (and some of my earlier results can be seen here: http://www.khk.net/wordpress/2007/07/05/pretzel-b...</p><p>If you've lived in Germany and can understand a bit of German, you may want to give this recipe a try: <a href="https://www.ploetzblog.de/2014/03/08/auf-der-walz-bayerische-brezn/" rel="nofollow"> https://www.ploetzblog.de/2014/03/08/auf-der-walz...</a></p><p>Or this: <a href="https://www.ploetzblog.de/2011/11/28/laugenbrezeln-mit-langer-fuehrung/" rel="nofollow"> https://www.ploetzblog.de/2011/11/28/laugenbrezel...</a></p><p>Or this: <a href="http://www.homebaking.at/laugengebaeck/" rel="nofollow"> http://www.homebaking.at/laugengebaeck/</a></p><p>What you may be able to see when you compare your recipe with these is that your dough is a bit too wet. You are working with a hydration of 64% (that means that the weight of the water in your recipe is 64% of the weight of flour), authentic recipes are much stiffer and quite a challenge for most mixers and muscles :) You are aiming for something between 50 and 55%. This will help the pretzels to keep their shape better and gives you a more authentic &quot;chewiness&quot;. </p><p>You may also want to reduce the amount of yeast you are using. The less yeast you have, the longer it takes for the dough to rise. This is not a race where you want to cross the finish line in the least amount of time: Longer rise will result in a better flavor. </p><p>And finally, when you shape them, roll them out so that the ends are much thinner than the middle, this will give you the true Bavarian pretzel shape. </p><p>Keep up the experimentations and see if you can come up with something much closer than what you've enjoyed in Bavaria. </p><p>BTW: I use parchment paper that I spray with cooking spray. This protects my baking sheets. The baking spray is for extra protection, because the lye also likes to cling to the parchment. </p>
<p>First i want to thank Jack for this instructable.</p><p>When i first came across the ploetzblog website, i was amazed. I soon ordered his book and also gave it to friends as a present. </p><p>I'm also a big fan of long fermentations. I also like the chewiness, that the &quot;Kochstueck&quot; adds to a dough. (This is some flour boiled in water until the starch gelatinizes and is able to get a lot of water into even a stiff dough)</p><p>A preferment adds a lot of flavour. I takes time, but it's worth it. I think i will do some Brezen in the near future. I did it a couple of times, but now i picked up some new ideas...</p>
<p>Thank you and thanks for the links. I wish I have known about Instructables years ago. Totally forgot the taper. Was just so excited with having gotten the flavor right. I am getting there and continuing to improve. I might even get back into bier brewing. Love a good doppelbock!</p>
<p>Thank you for those links. I can use Chrome or google translate to translate them. </p><p>This is the recipe I use for my pretzels. </p><p>https://www.thespruce.com/brezel-the-soft-pretzels-with-old-world-taste-1446685</p>
<p>yes lye the secret - it is the only way to make authentic German pretzels - all the others pale in taste and texture.</p><p>I can get pretzels from a local bakery but at a stupid price ($1.25 each last time I looked) but my wife makes them following roughly the same process as above based on recipe sourced by my mother from the local baker in Germany.</p><p>I made some custom baking grids from 1/4&quot; hardware cloth and she uses a sacrificial set of baking sheets - see pics - once they are wrecked who cares as the product never touches the sheet (i.e. the pretzels are suspended on the grids) - she also dips the pretzels rather than brushing using the grids for dying before baking - secondary benefit of the grids is circulation of air during baking. </p><p>Also for complete authenticity the fat part of the pretzel should be slashed before baking after the lye has dried to expose the inner dough - looks nice :)</p>
<p>gcai_fwb, what is that you used for the frame? screen framing?</p>
No not screen framing.<br><br>PLEASE NOTE - DO NOT use anything ALUMINUM around lye - it reacts quite violently and creates hydrogen gas - very combustible.- same reason putting anything Aluminum through the dishwasher causes that article to get totally discoloured - there's a bit of lye (sodium hydroxide NaOH) in the dishwasher detergent. <br><br>now to answer your query - well scrounger that I am I had some leftover corner bead from a drywalling project so I cut that down and then hammered it flat sandwiching the hardware cloth - the rectangle is sized so the inside exposed grid is close to the size of the sheet - it sorta locks - no great accuracy :)<br>after making them I scrubbed them throughly and then baked for a while at 450 or so - clean as they are ever going to be.<br>if you have access to a sheet metal brake you could make up a strip of thin galvanized metal - again bending over and hammering flat.<br><br>also when using the grids they are given a healthy brush of vegetable oil so over time they have &quot;seasoned&quot; - after use they get tossed in the dishwasher along with the sacrificial sheets - done!
<p>Nice. I have stores of corner bead in the basement. Thanks for the note on Aluminum. Could've been a hard lesson.</p>
Yeah.... try testing if you like the lye or baked baking soda.... and you you your wife's very expensice caphalon pots.... that are aluminum!!!! The boiling water just speeds up the reaction!! Yeah, I got in a little trouble for that one!!!!<br>I love publishing on here.... I end up learning so much about whatever I am making.
<p>@ Jack Oat </p><p>in case you're interested here's the unadulterated recipe that my wife uses</p><p>btw she stores the lye solution between batches (in plastic/glass) - it lasts a long time </p><p>sorry no pictures :)</p><p>My Pretzel recipe (Anne's),</p><p>Yup, this version works - makes 16 pretzels an be doubled.</p><p>Ingredients:</p><p>2 lb flour</p><p> 1.5 tsp salt<br> 1.5 Tbsp instant yeast (yes this works, very reactive in warm oven!)<br> 1.5 Tbsp honey</p><p> 600 ml water </p><p> Make a <strong>stiff </strong>dough and <strong>knead </strong>5 minutes or until smooth.</p><p> Cover with plastic wrap and <strong>let rise 1 hr</strong> or until doubled in oven with light on (preheat oven to 150F to speed up).</p><p> Prepare pans - <strong>grease </strong>pretzel rack (1/4c canola oil - brush grids with oil using pastry brush), put on old nasty baking sheet</p><p> Divide dough into 16 pieces; roll out each into 2 ft snake fatter in centre; do pretzel twist.</p><p> Let <strong>dry </strong>on a cloth until a bit of skin forms - <strong>1-2 hrs</strong>. Note: dry seam-side down first, then flip at 30min to seams up - that's the final side). Don't skimp on drying - the lye is thinner with a good skin.</p><p>Pour <strong>lye</strong> into deep glass bowl, diameter of pretzel. Use protective gloves (blue ones good); use stainless steel metal slotted spoon (try plastic spatula); dip in lye very briefly, seam-side up, pressing down briefly to moisten top. Carefully transfer to grid.</p><p> Use <strong>razor </strong>knife (try razor blade) to slit fat part of pretzel; sprinkle with sea salt.</p><p> Put on pretzel rack - 8 fit closely, use 2 trays, 1 batch of 16 (possible to put directly on teflon sheets but the lye pools and is strong to the taste = yuck).</p><p> Bake @ <strong>400F</strong> for <strong>10 min</strong>.</p><p> Turn down to 350F for 20 min. or <br>convection </p><p> <strong>350F</strong> for <strong>14 min</strong> (yes this works)</p><p> Makes 16.<br><br> <strong>Lye:</strong><br> Add 1/4 c pellets to 4 c of water and stir to dissolve.<br> Must be stored in glass or plastic; do not contact with metal or skin.</p>
<p>Thanks. Always looking for improvements and more info for the peripheral brain. I totally forgot about the slit on the fat part (and to taper the ends of the dough from it). A few people have also brought that up.</p>
<p>OK, These look great!!! I would like to throw in a few suggestions... not saying they are better... but give them a try... you may like the results. I know I am going to do a taste test with both methods!</p><p>Aluminum is even worse than steel... you will metal aluminum pot like I am going to tell in you a few min!!! BAD!</p><p>Lye (sodium hydroxide) [pH~12] -- this is authentic, and I really want to try a cold lye technique... it may be even better</p><p>Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) [pH~8] -- don't even bother... they are not worth it.</p><p>Baked baking soda (sodium carbonate) [pH~11]-- Take your baking soda (1/8-1/4 cup or so) and bake it on a cookie sheet for 20min... an hour... something like that. then get a pot of boiling water (I use our large spaghetti pot.. just make sure it is steel!!!). Slowly and carefully put the carbonate into the water (if it is still hot it will boil the water). Drop your pretzels in the water for about 1-2 min. Take them out, sprinkle with salt, and bake them. </p><p>I have done several single blind taste tests and the sodium carbonate is always the clear winner. I am thinking the non-boiled lye may be a better lye mix. </p><p>What is going on when you bake the baking soda you chemically dehydrate the baking soda, and change it from sodium bicarbonate to sodium carbonate. This greatly increase the pH. It isn't as caustic as the Lye, but it is close. So please be careful!!! and follow all the other safety measures laid out above. </p>
<p>Baked baking soda. I had never considered that. I've baked flour before to get a jump start on roux for gumbo. Gonna try it.</p>
And the water is just right at boiling. I am kinda anxious to try using not hot water.<br>My pretzel recipe was totally my (and a buddy's) creation.... and we did boiled base because that is how you do bagels.... never even occoured to me to not boil them... but I know, now that I think about it, there were several exmaples of this when o was doing my research! <br>Good luck!
<p>My son has a wheat allergy. Have you experimented with alternative types of flour?</p>
<p>I have not. I might have to get some Bob's Red Mill and experiment. Brown rice and Almond mixture maybe?</p>
<p>Have you ever worked with oat flour or potato starch flour?</p>
<p>Dbosses, research methylcellulose. It is marketed as a gluten replacement.I agree with mlaiuppa. Nothing will replace the flavor of wheat flour.</p>
<p>Not potato flour. I like oat flour. Nice flavor and seems to retain moisture nicely.</p>
<p>Try any gluten free bread recipe, then proceed as directed. They may not taste exactly like Bavarian pretzels but without wheat flour, nothing will. </p>
<p>Looking Good!!!!!!!!</p>
<p>They look great! I had pretzels in Germany, and they were so, so much better than ones we get in the US. Would parchment paper protect the pan enough? I don't have silpats.</p>
<p>These are those pretzels. I tried parchment paper before, although using a baking soda solution. The pretzels and the parchment became one. I may try again, spraying the parchment with shortening, or try wax paper. What I am working on this week is just baking 2 pretzels at a time (I think I gained 4 lbs this weekend, I ate them all) and freezing the rest, to bake at my convenience. Maybe you can try the same and bake 1-2 at a time using different substrates. Silpats (silicone baking sheets) are really the way to go. I just started using them last year and they are nearly indestructible. Found mine on clearance at a store like Marshall's for $5.</p>
<p>I would at least mostly bake them before freezing. Then put them in the oven to warm up and finish browning. Otherwise you may not get that shiny lye finish to your pretzels. </p>
<p>Regarding freezing: do not salt the pretzels before freezing them. The salt will melt the dough surface into a gooey, unappetizing texture. Sort of like day old kimmelweck rolls that have been wrapped up. I don't know about freezing the lye solution, as I have not used lye in my pretzel baking. You can salt the pretzels when thawed and ready to bake.</p>
<p>LaurraW171, I was thinking the same thing, so I wrapped them individually in plastic wrap and placed each in a gallon ziploc with apply the lye solution or salt. I baked one straight out of the freezer with lye and salt and let the other thaw to room temp before adding lye, salt and baking. The one I thawed turned out much better with a more tender crumb.</p>
<p>I sure will try them. I make bretzels sometimes but I boil them in a baking soda solution and then apply egg on top before cooking. The boiling step is a bit of a pain but using lye will get me rid of this, so I will make them more often! Need to find the lye now... Got my vote!</p>
<p>Food grade can be had from that major online vendor with prime shipping if you have it. I bought both food grade lye and pretzel salt from them. </p>
<p>Always add lye to water, never water to lye. It could splash. </p><p>Excellent. My Mother had a yearning for real Bavarian pretzels and I ordered some food grade lye online and we went to work. Came out great. </p><p>We mix the lye in a glass bowl and we dip our pretzels, then remove to a rack to rest for 20 min, then bake on parchment paper. </p><p>I would highly recommend buying real pretzel salt. While you can use coarse sea salt or kosher salt in a pinch, if you're going to go through this much trouble, you might as well get the real stuff. It does make a difference. </p><p>I notice you didn't slit yours. We roll ours with very skinny arms and a thick bottom; at least 12-14 inches long before twisting.. After twisting I take a lame and I slit the bottom so it opens when baking. I'm getting good enough so you can't tell the difference between mine and the real thing. And they do taste great. There is no substitution for lye. </p><p>If you're planning on making pretzels again, you can save the lye (in a glass bottle or jar) and reuse it. Just make sure to clearly label it! Store in a cool, dark place.</p>
<p>We were just talking about the pretzels we used to get in the beer halls! Definitely will give these a try.</p><p>HOWEVER!</p><p>Please edit your 'ible so that it states you add the lye to the water, instead of vice versa. This is basic chemical-handling safety; doing it your way can result in spurts of boiling lye water smacking you in face. Trust me on this. :)</p><p>Also, any vinegar will work to neutralize the sodium hydroxide if you spill it. </p>
<p>Cheese Queen, Thanks for the input. I didn't know that I could, but have updated the instructions to reflect the correct sequence. Thank you for the input and interest.</p>
<p>never never never add water to lye (caustic soda). Can get a sudden heat and splash. Always carefully add lye to the water</p>
<p>Denbird, Thanks for the catch. Excellent point. Instructions have been updated.</p>
Yes, I will back you up on that. Everyone listen to denbird... Dissolving NaOH in water is an exothermic process, meaning it releases heat. So always carefully add the lye to water, not the other way around.
<p>Nice! So yummy looking! I've tried making them using baking soda and they're ok but not as good as yours! Thank You for the fantastic picture and tutorial!</p>
<p>These are not exactly authentic Bavarian pretzels, but it is a safer alternative. You must use food grade lye to make truly authentic pretzels with a deep brown flavorful surface. I have tried baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), sodium carbonate, and lye (sodium hydroxide). Lye is the only way to go. Just BE CAREFUL and always use gloves and goggles.</p>
<p>I think the lye is esential,but I will give the baking soda wash a try.</p>
<p>These look fantrastic! </p><p>If you're nervous about using lye, try Alton Brown's method of using baking soda and heat. I've used it before to make some tasty pretzels. The down-side being you have to add an egg-wash to get the full browning effect.</p><p><a href="http://altonbrown.com/homemade-soft-pretzels-recipe/" rel="nofollow">http://altonbrown.com/homemade-soft-pretzels-recipe/</a></p>
<p>Thanks for the feedback. I made Alton's recipe last week. Delicious! If i do it again, I'll lightly freeze them before dunking in the baking soda solution. Lye though makes the crust much crisper and adds flavor. </p>
Looks great!!!!!!
Detailed instructions and helpful information to avoid damage using lye
<p>These are AMAZING PRETZELS!!! Just like being in Germany, only better!!</p>

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