Why I Created This Recipe
Pretzels aren’t a popular choice here when it comes to bread. People in Hong Kong prefer softer Japanese style sweet bread. In fact, only a few handful of bakeries here sell pretzels, let alone vegan ones (most pretzels are made with butter). That’s why I decided to make some vegan sourdough pretzels at home. 🥨
Pretzels = Happy Memories
My first encounter with pretzels was around 5 years ago, when I was in Berlin for the marathon. I just completed the marathon with my personal best. Right after the race, my friend brought me to a nice restaurant for a celebratory dinner. And the restaurant served those soft and fluffy pretzels. The first time I took a bite at a pretzel, I immediately fell in love with it. It’s chewy, kind of like bagels, but with a cracker like flavor and a hint of saltiness.
One of the main characteristics of pretzels is the brown glossy crust. It is achieved by soaking the pretzel dough in lye bath (4% concentration) prior to baking.
Lye (aka Sodium Hydroxide) is a caustic alkaline solution, usually used in soap and clean drains. It can even dissolve glass. Although the lye bath is heavily diluted, it’s better to wear gloves to protect your skin while you are handling the lye solution.
So how does lye work? In fact, the alkaline lye bath affects how the Maillard reaction takes place during the baking process. Simply put, the Maillard process is a heat activated reaction between sugar and amino acids. The lye actually broke down the proteins in the dough into smaller particles. Thus, it alters the ratio sugar and protein ratio. Those small amino acids will then combine with sugar in the lye bath to create the flavor compounds at the pretzels’ crust. Hence, the unique and distinct flavor.
Yudane Method 💦
For stiff dough, I prefer to use Yudane method as it helps to keep the bread moist and soft for longer. These sourdough pretzels have the texture that resemble most Japanese bread – super soft and fluffy. As I learned more about sourdough baking over the past year, I came across the Yudane Method. Yudane method is the secret to make a soft and fluffy Japanese style bread. In order to bake using this method, you simply mix an equal portion of flour and boiling water. The effect of adding boiling water to flour is that it gelatinises the starch. The gelatinised starch will allow the starch to absorb more water, and thus enhancing the sweetness of the bread.
Yudane method is in fact similar to the Tangzhong method I used in my sourdough milk bread recipe. Unlike the 1:1 flour-to-water ratio in Yudane method, the Tangzvhong mixture is made by heating up a mixture of flour and water in the ratio of 1:5 to 65°C.
For more sourdough recipe using Yudane method, check out the following recipes:
- Vegan sourdough shokupan
- Double chocolate sourdough babka rolls
- Sourdough cinnamon roll recipe
- Sourdough vegan challah
- Soft sourdough rolls
- Sourdough blueberry rolls
- Sourdough matcha babkallah
- Matcha & black sesame sourdough babka
Sourdough Pretzels (Super Soft & Buttery)Course: Baked Goods, Bread, SourdoughCuisine: GermanDifficulty: Medium
These pretzels are not only soft & fluffy, but they’re also chewy with a cracker like flavor and a hint of saltiness.
- Mix all the ingredients of the stiff levain and leave it to rise until doubled or even tripled. It usually takes 3-4 hours at 82°F (28°C).
- While you are waiting for the stiff levain to rise, add 115g boiling water to 115g bread flour. Leave it aside to cool completely.
- Once the levain is ready to use, place all of the ingredients (except butter, syrup and salt) into the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the hook attachment, knead for about 5 minutes until the dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
- Add softened butter, agave syrup and salt, mix for another 5-10 minutes or until the dough reaches window pane stage.
- Shape the dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Rest for 1 hour. Perform 1 sert of stretch & fold.
- Leave the dough untouched for another 2 hours.
- Take the dough out to your work surface. Divide the dough into 7 equal portions (around 115g each). Degas each piece heavily with your hand and gently flatten it into a small rectangle. Form each piece into a log and let them rest for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven at 450°F (230°C).
- While the dough is resting, prepare the lye bath. Melt 19g of food grade lye in 470g water.
- Shape the small logs into pretzels. by first rolling the dough into a long rope. Once the rope is rolled out, grab the two ends of the rope. Take one tip and fold it over the other side. Fold once more then grab the two tips and fold them up over the knot in the middle and place each tip on its corresponding side inside the loop. Gently press it down to seal so it won’t unravel during baking.
- Same day method: Let the dough proof on the counter at room temperature for 30 mins uncovered.
Overnight method: Or you can also proof for 15 mins at room temperature (covered), then transfer the dough to the fridge overnight and bake it the next day. The next day uncover the tray and let them sit in the fridge for 20 minutes, then continue with the rest of the process.
- Prepare a lined baking tray, a cooling rack on top of another baking tray, and the bowl of lye solution on your countertop. Wearing a pair of rubber gloves. carefully transfer a fully proofed pretzel dough to the lye bath. Let it sit in the bath for 15-20 seconds. Then, transfer it to the cooling rack. Repeat this steps with the remaining pretzels.
- Carefully score each pretzel using a bread lame (I used my UFO lame from Wire Monkey) and sprinkle the bottom area with sea salt flakes.
- Bake at 450°F (230°C) for 10 mins. Turn the oven down to 425°F (220°C) for another 8 mins or until done to your liking.