German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) ~ Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel

➤ by Oma Gerhild Fulson

Let me, Oma, show you how to make this German pretzel recipe without lye using an easy trick. Using BAKED baking soda (my NEW method), your pretzels will remind you of Oktoberfest all year long.

This method of how to make homemade pretzels, aka Brezeln, is so easy. Crispy on the outside, yet with a soft center. It's a beginner-easy recipe that will have you hooked on homemade pretzels.

Why, you can even make pretzel buns, aka Laugenbrötchen, using the same method. Make them either round or oblong and as small or as large as you want.

For the full list of ingredients & detailed instructions, see the recipe card at the end of this post. But before you scroll, there’s important & interesting stuff to know right below.

NOTE: I've changed the recipe since I first posted it, so you'll want to take a look at how I make it now. It's even better and actually easier.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) ~ Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel

Making authentic German pretzels involves dunking into a caustic lye bath, lye being sodium hydroxide. The recipe below is a lot safer and here's how. Make Oma's German pretzels by dunking into a BAKED baking soda solution.

Laugenbrötchen and Brezeln

The only pretzel I knew over here in Canada was that little hard pretzel. Those small little hard, salty things one buys in bags as snack foods.

They're alright, but I always wondered what people saw in them. When I saw them for sale in Germany, large and bread-like, I just never bothered with them.

That is, until my recent trip to Germany. Accidentally, I had a Laugenbrötchen. It looked very similar to the German soft pretzels, only it was a round roll with cuts in the top and sprinkled with coarse salt. After that, I indulged in traditional Bavarian pretzels whenever I could!

Oh my, delicious!

This started my quest for the perfect German recipe for pretzels. Since they aren't available at a grocery store where I live, I need to make them when I get a craving.

In the traditional way of using lye pretzels take on a wonderful distinctive flavor and color. Using lye for authentic pretzels that taste like they came from a German bakery requires the use of rubber gloves and safety glasses!

I wanted something a little bit, make that a whole lot, safer and easier.

It's been a continuous quest for that easy recipe and I just recently discovered (thanks to Harold McGee in the NY Times) to BAKE the baking soda instead of using a plain baking soda mixture in boiling water in a large pot that most non-lye recipes use.

The recipe below will make 12 medium-sized pretzels or 10 medium-sized rolls. You can make them smaller or larger, depending on how you plan to use them.

Celebrate Oktoberfest right at home with these German recipes found right here in Oma's Oktoberfest e-Cookbook.  

Take a look at Just like Oma’s eCookbook and enjoy the traditional taste of German cuisine!

Take a peek at all Oma's eCookbooks. They make sharing your German heritage a delicious adventure!

What is BAKED baking soda?

Simply put, by baking the baking soda, a chemical reaction occurs that turns sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into sodium carbonate, a stronger alkali, a slightly more caustic soda.

This makes a stronger alkaline solution to dunk the raw pretzels in and gives that wonderful golden brown color and more pretzel-y taste.

Think washing soda, because that's what sodium carbonate is. But don't use washing soda for this, since that isn't sold as food grade. Instead, you're going to make your own food-grade batch to use.

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to wear some type of latex gloves when dunking your unbaked pretzels. I found using a large slotted spoon or a spider, works as well.

How to make BAKED baking soda:

Using BAKED baking soda for the baking soda wash is a great alternative to plain baking soda. BTW, this baked baking soda can also be used for homemade ramen noodles.

Either make just what you need as you start to make your pretzel dough or make enough to store for future use as well.

Here's how to make Baked Baking Soda:

  • Preheat the oven to 250°F (120°C).
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spread baking soda in a thin, even layer.
  • Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour. 
  • Let cool and place in a well-sealed airtight container to store. Keep at room temperature.

For an authentic pretzel recipe (using lye) from a Bavarian baker's son:

Here's a photo sent in by a Bavarian baker's son. He continues with his dad's tradition of making these Laugenbrezeln with a food-grade lye solution, so if that's the recipe you'd like, check it out here.

Traditional German Pretzels

Oma says,

Among Oktoberfest recipesthis Pretzel recipe below should be a must. It's actually quite easy to make.

Do as the Germans do and cut them in half and slather with butter.

Or, be American and dip into a cheese sauce or honey mustard, make that German mustard.

Served right out of the oven, you'll soon be in love with these too. If you like sweet pretzels, then omit the sprinkling of salt and brush with melted butter once out of the oven. Then dip them into a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. 

Here's the simple way to make Pretzels

Start by baking the baking soda so it will be ready to use when you need it. Then, make the simple yeast dough and let it rise until doubled in volume.

Bake the baking soda
Let yeast dough rise till double in volume

Form the classic Bavarian pretzel shape with a fatter centre and crossed ends.

Roll yeast dough piece into rope
Form rope into a U shape
Twist ends once
Twist ends again
Fold ends down and press to curved part
Let pretzels rise

Make the baked baking soda bath and dunk the pretzels (or the buns).

Make baked baking soda bath
Dunk pretzels for a few seconds

Slit pretzels, sprinkle with salt, and bake.

Easy peasy.

Yummy in my tummy!

Finished baked pretzels!

The ones above look "rustic" because I was having fun playing with different ways to "fold" them. The result though, delicious and looking totally homemade. The BEST!

If you want them to be the same size, you'll need to weigh the dough pieces to keep the size the same. I usually don't bother, unless it's for company. Then I'm a bit more careful with size and fold. The ones above were just for hubby and me to indulge in.

Ready to make these German pretzels?

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) ~ Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel

This method of how to make pretzels, aka Brezel, is among the easiest I've found. They are crispy on the outside, yet soft on the inside.

Originally I used simmering baking soda solution and the pretzels were good. Now, I use a BAKED baking soda bath instead and the pretzels are so much better! You can also divide into the dough into 10 and make Laugenbrötchen, pretzel rolls.

Servings:

Makes 12 pretzels or 10 rolls

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons (108 grams) baking soda
  • ½ cup (120 milliliter) lukewarm water
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup (180 milliliter) lukewarm milk
  • 2 tablespoons (28 grams) soft butter
  • 3½ cups (455 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
  • 3 cups (720 milliliters) hot water
  • coarse sea salt to sprinkle

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C). Line a baking sheet with foil and spread baking soda in a thin, even layer. Bake for one hour. Meanwhile make the pretzel dough. Once the soda has baked, remove and set aside to cool.
  2. Prepare two baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Add the lukewarm water and sugar into a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. Mix in the yeast and let stand 10 minutes until bubbly. Add the milk and stir.
  4. Blend in the butter, 3 cups of flour, and salt into the yeast mixture. Let the dough hook knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed until the dough is smooth, elastic and not sticky.
  5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or put the bowl in a plastic bag and let the dough rise for 45 to 60 minutes in a draft-free warm place until doubled in size.
  6. Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C).
  7. To make Pretzels: On the work surface, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Create the classic pretzel shape by rolling each piece of dough into an 18-inch long rope, keeping the center thicker than the ends. Form into a U shape. Cross the ends of the rope over each other twice about 3-inches from the end. Fold the ends down and press to the curved part at the 4-and 8-o'clock positions.
  8. To make Rolls: On the work surface, divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Form each piece into a smooth ball by placing it into one hand. With the other fingers, pull up the outside edges and pinch into the middle several times, dusting fingers with flour if needed.
  9. Place pretzels/rolls onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover with a towel and let rise 15 minutes in a warm spot. Remove towel and rise another 15 minutes, letting the surface dry to form a slight skin.
  10. Prepare the soda bath. Using a large bowl (non-reactive material or glass bowl), gradually whisk in the cooled baked baking soda into the 3 cups of water (hot) until dissolved.
  11. Dip pretzels/rolls using your fingers or a slotted spoon, one at a time, into the soda bath for about 3 seconds for pretzels and 3 seconds each side for rolls. Remove, give a gently shake to remove excess moisture, and put back on the parchment-lined baking sheets.
  12. Slit the thick center of the pretzels with a sharp knife or razor blade. For the rolls, slit a cross on the top. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  13. Bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until nicely browned. Remove to a wire rack to cool. These homemade German pretzels and pretzel rolls are best enjoyed while still warm.

Notes/Hints

  • Replace 1 cup of all-purpose flour with 1 cup of whole wheat flour or bread flour.
  • Pretzel salt or kosher salt can also be used for sprinkling.
  • Pretzels are wonderful brushed with melted butter right after they are baked.
  • If you have sensitive skin, use gloves when dipping pretzels.
  • For a deeper color, you can brush with an egg wash (1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water) before sprinkling with salt and baking.
  • If you want a chewier crust, dip into the baked baking soda solution for a few seconds longer.

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Unless otherwise noted recipe, images and content © Just like Oma | www.quick-german-recipes.com

09.07.2021 revision update

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Oma shows you how to make this German pretzel recipe without lye using an easy trick. Using BAKED baking soda, your pretzels will remind you of Oktoberfest all year long.

German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) ~ Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel



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German Pretzel Recipe (without lye) ~ Oma's Soft Bavarian Laugenbrezel


Oma shows how to make this German pretzel recipe without lye using an easy trick. Using BAKED baking soda, these pretzels will remind you of Oktoberfest all year long.


Ingredients: yeast, sugar, butter, milk, all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda, coarse sea salt,

For the full recipe, scroll up ...

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