Is there anyone who doesn’t love a pretzel roll? To me, the perfect pretzel roll is flavorful, light and fluffy on the inside, with a dark brown, chewy (but not crisp) crust, and a hefty sprinkle of salt on top. All the best parts of a really good pretzel, but with the versatility and unfussiness of a bun or roll. They’re easy enough to find in a grocery store these days, but with a few exceptions, they are pretty unremarkable. Some are too dense, while others are all fluff with no chew to the crust. Nothing disappoints like the promise of a delicious pretzel roll unfulfilled.
The good thing is that these babies are actually pretty easy to make. I think people shy away from making them because of the extra step of poaching them before baking. But it takes all of two minutes, and voila! Into the oven they go. Besides, the rest of the recipe is so basic and simple that it makes up for it. I’m always amazed when I’m making bread at how a few basic ingredients- flour, water, yeast, etc.- can become so many different things. These rolls are the perfect example of that. They don’t require any special ingredients that you wouldn’t have in your pantry, yet they are something much more special than your average dinner roll. And the result is so worth it.
Like I said, these rolls are fantastic on their own, with just a smear of butter. But I must confess, I have slightly more hedonistic intentions for my pretzel rolls. They are the vehicle of choice for our absolute favorite burgers… which I will share with you soon. Stay tuned.
adapted from this recipe
1 ½ cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast ( 2 1/4 teaspoons or 7 grams for those of you who buy the big bags like I do)
2 teaspoons sugar
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling the rolls
4 tablespoons unsalted Butter, melted
¼ cups baking soda
1 whole egg, lightly beaten
In the bowl of your stand mixer, gently stir together the water, yeast, and sugar. Let rest 5-10 minutes until foamy and a little bubbly.
Add the flour, salt, and melted butter and mix using the dough hook until the dough becomes relatively smooth. It should be a loose dough, but not sticky. If it’s sticky and not coming together in a clean ball, add more flour, a little at a time. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in bulk.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and set aside. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces . To shape the dough, take a piece of dough and start forming a round, smooth ball by pulling the sides to the bottom and pinching to seal, then rolling between your palms a few times.
Place the ball on the prepared baking sheet pinched seam side down, with at least 1” between each roll. Flatten each ball just a bit with the palm of your hand. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until they rise & double.
Preheat oven to 425°F and place oven rack in the middle position. In a large saucepan, combine baking soda and 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer.
Place 2-3 of the rolls at a time into the poaching liquid. Poach for 30 seconds and then carefully turn the roll over and poach for the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and return the rolls to the same prepared sheet pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining rolls.
Using a pastry brush, brush each roll with the beaten egg, making sure to coat all sides completely & then sprinkle each roll with a little kosher salt. Using a very sharp straight-edged knife, cut an X shape in the top of each roll. Bake the rolls for 20-22 minutes, or until they are as dark a brown as you desire. Let the rolls cool on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.