I'd been trying to think up a bread project these last two weeks that I could submit to a blogging event  but thanks to a truckload of distractions, inspiration just wouldn't come. Last weekend, whilst on a family outing, I was queueing in front of Aunty Anne's, two minutes into my usual tirade about three dollar pretzels and daylight robbery, when hubs took the five dollar bill out of my hand, slipped it back into my wallet and said, "Why don't you just make your own?" I tell you sometimes, that man actually makes sense ;)

So, it was decided and I threw together my basic white bread recipe, unthinking, unfazed though I had never before made a pretzel. How hard could it be right? Make some yeasted dough, make some dough ropes, twist into knots and hey presto, pretzels!! Wrong. So. Very. Wrong.

First, you need LONG ropes of dough to make pretzels. Second, the more you pull on gluten rich dough, the more it shrinks back on itself. I screwed up my first batch so badly, I couldn't stretch my ropes longer than a frankfurter. They just kept snapping back so violently, I actually screamed in frustration, gathered up all the ropes and smooshed them into a baking tray for focaccia instead.

For my second attempt, I changed tack and focussed on drastically reducing the gluten content in the recipe and restricting gluten development in the dough by using mostly low gluten all purpose flour, cutting the kneading time in half and adding butter to the dough, which is traditionally fatless for a chewier texture.  It worked like a charm!

If you attempt to roll the ropes out in one go, you will have the same problem I did. Save yourself a whole lot of grief; I rolled them out a bit, toasted a waffle and poured myself a cup of coffee. When I was done, the ropes were ready for their second rolling and were so pliant and so easy to work, my previous experience seemed like a bad dream.

Traditionally, pretzels are poached in a lye solution before baking or in the more modern version, in a baking soda solution.  I really didnt' want to mess about with hot, caustic liquids or do a two step cooking process for just 8 pretzels. My lazy compromise was to brush them with a mixture of baking soda and milk before topping and baking. This way you get the dark crust and characteristic bite that traditionally comes from lye, without any of the hassle.

These are so easy, I'll definitely make them again and again. The first flavours to go were the sea salt, sesame, and garlic salt in that order, but I'm already thinking about za'atar, fried onions, parmesan and wasabi for next time. I'd also roll out the ropes even thinner and work faster so they don't have time to puff up; I wasn't happy about the bread to topping ratio, though my boys said they preferred my chubby pretzels to Aunty Anne's more elegantly trim ones. Fat or thin, I no longer see three-dollar pretzels in my future!

1 hr 30 mins        Cook 12 minutes        Makes 8 palm sized pretzels

350 g (3 1/2 level teacups) plain or all purpose flour
150 g (1 1/2 level teacups) bread or high protein flour
1 1/2 level tsp fine salt
3 level tsp sugar
2 level tsp instant yeast
350 ml (1 3/4 teacups) water
4 Tbsp (30 g / 1 oz solid butter) cooled melted butter


1 tsp baking soda
4 Tbsp milk


garlic salt, piri piri flakes, crushed toasted nori, sesame seeds and sea salt flakes

Combine flours, salt, sugar and yeast (making sure salt and yeast don't come into direct contact with each other) and stir everything together with a whisk.

Add water and melted butter and knead on low speed for about 5 minutes. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky with a dull, matt look instead of the almost satiny sheen of well kneaded dough. Scrape dough out onto a lightly greased surface and grease inside of bowl.

Shape dough into a neat ball, grease dough and return to bowl. Cover and leave to rise for an hour or until slightly more than doubled in volume.

Turn dough out onto work surface, gently deflate and cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece with your palms (in one direction) into a rope about 30 cm (12 in) long, cover lightly and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

Preheat oven at 200 C (400 F)

Roll rope out again until 60 cm (24 in) long and about finger-thick. It should be a little thinner at each end then in the middle. Twist into pretzel shape and transfer to a greased or parchment lined baking tray. Repeat with other ropes. I could only get 4 on each tray.

Brush each pretzel gently and thickly with the milk and baking soda mixture. Make sure glaze doesn't drip down to the (unlined) tray or pretzels may get 'glued' to the tray after baking. Sprinkle pretzel generously with toppings and immediately bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack immediately. Eat and repeat. And stop making Aunty Anne a billionaire.

Blogging Event!

I am submitting this recipe to Let's Break Bread Together at Wit, Wok and Wisdom. Please click on the link, if you love all things bread, and check out a wealth of gorgeous and mouthwatering bread recipes! If you'd like to participate and submit a recipe, the closing date is April 22, so don't drag your heels...