A couple of years ago, after finishing an exhibition set-up at Marina Bay Sands, my friend M and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner. We dragged our tired souls to DB Bistro Moderne. While we waited for our appetizers, we were presented with the bread basket. The first piece of bread that I chose was this dark oblong roll. The moment I bit into it, my brain screamed “pretzel”. The bread was warm, chewy and savoury. It was delicious on its own and you don’t even need any butter.
DB’s pretzel roll left such an impression that every time I stepped into a bakery and if I saw a pretzel roll, I would get it. Unfortunately I have yet to find a version that matches the “DB” standard. Thus, the only way to appease my craving was to make my own pretzel roll.
I particularly like Alton Brown’s pretzel recipe as it is simple, easy to follow and the proofing time is relatively short. Though the original recipe is meant for you to shape the dough into a pretzel, it is still good for one to roll it into a boule instead.
The finished product is a soft and fluffy roll, yet it does not lose its chewy texture. This also makes the roll highly addictive. I had the roll plain, with cheese, and I even used it as hamburger bun. It is definitely difficult to stop at one.
Soft pretzel rolls
(Adapted from Alton Brown’s homemade soft pretzels)
Recipe type: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Prep time: 90 minutes
Cook time: 12-15 minutes
Total time: 105 minutes
Serve: Makes about 12 pretzel rolls
624g all-purpose flour
1½ cup warm water (around 43oC)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
7g active dry yeast (1 sachet/ 2¼ teaspoons)
57g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
10 cups water
200g baking soda
1 large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil for the pan
Sea salt (I used Maldon), poppy seed or sesame seeds
In your stand mixer’s bowl, add in the flour. Pour in the salt and sugar at one end of the bowl, and add in the yeast at the other end. Be careful here: if you add in the salt on top of the yeast, it will kill the latter and your dough might not rise.
Using the dough hook attachment, mix the dry ingredients on a low speed. Slowly pour in the melted butter, follow by the water. If you do not have a stand mixer, use a wooden spoon and mix the ingredients together.
Change the mixer speed to medium, knead the dough until it is soft and starts to pull away from the side of the bowl. This will take around 4-5 minutes. At the initial stage, the dough might look a bit shaggy – do not be tempted to add in more water. Let the mixer work its magic for 5 minutes. If it continues to look shaggy, you can then add in more water, tablespoon by tablespoon.
If you are kneading by hand, turn the bowl and place the dough on a lightly floured surface/ board. Using your preferred kneading method, knead the dough until it is smooth and not tacky. This should take around 10-15 minutes. After kneading, if the dough looks dry, you can add in water, tablespoon by tablespoon.
Oil a large bowl with some vegetable oil and place the kneaded dough inside. If you are using the stand mixer, you can remove the dough from the bowl, clean it, oil it with vegetable oil and put the dough back into the oiled bowl.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (or a shower cap), and let it sit in a warm place for around an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 220oC. Line two baking trays with parchment paper and lightly brush it with vegetable oil. Set aside.
On a lightly oiled surface (I like to use a wooden chopping board), divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. I would usually weigh the dough for increased accuracy and divide them accordingly.
Using the “pull and tuck” method, pull one side of the dough and tuck it underneath. Repeat until you get a round shape/ boule. Alternatively, you can gently roll the dough on the oiled surface into a ball. Repeat for the rest of the pieces and place them on the parchment lined baking trays.
Using a 4-litre saucepan, bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil. Place the ball of dough into the boiling water, one piece at a time for 30 seconds. You might need to turn the dough to ensure all sides are coated. This process imparts the “alkaline-pretzel” flavour onto the dough, and during baking, it will also give the roll its dark brown colour.
Using a strainer spoon, remove the dough and drain any excess water, and place it on the parchment lined baking tray. Repeat for the rest of pieces.
Brush the top and side of the dough with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with sea salt*. Bake until dark golden brown in colour. This will take around 12-15 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool for 5 minutes.
The pretzel rolls are best eaten on the day itself. If you plan to eat them the next day, I would recommend that they be kept in the freezer. To reheat, thaw the roll completely. Preheat the oven to 180oC and bake 5-8 minutes.
*Beside sea salt, you can also sprinkle black pepper, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, parmesan cheese, or whatever you happen to have in your pantry.