Pretzels are a classic German bread, and we’re sticking largely to tradition with these spelt pretzels. Soft baked, they’re best the day they’re made, and seasoned with coarse salt. Of course, pretzels come in all shapes and sizes and there are a number of modern varieties now.
Typically boiled with a diluted lye mixture, we’re using baking soda to get the same flavour. Lye can be harder to find and is more dangerous to work with, and baking soda causes the Maillard reaction in much the same way.
Spelt flour adds an excellent depth of flavour to these pretzels and the dough is really easy to work with (only resting for a few minutes, no proof or rising time needed). While the shaping can be a bit tricky for beginners, it’s not complicated, and you can see the video for more guidance.
- Spelt Flour: use light spelt for best results, but you can do a mix of light and whole grain if you’re feeling confident.
- Yeast: fresh yeast is pictured, but instant dry can also be used.
- Water: room temperature, not cold (this is important).
- Olive Oil: another liquid oil or (vegan) butter can be subbed here. Don’t omit the oil, you’ll get tough pretzels.
- Honey or Maple Syrup: a touch of sweetener improves the flavour, don’t omit.
- Salt: for the dough and for topping. Coarse salt is ideal but flake is good too.
- Baking Soda: for boiling the pretzels.
Step by Step
If you can’t see the accompanying video in the post, watch it here.
Notes and Substitutions
If the notes on shaping are confusing, please reference the video. It’s not complicated, but can be a bit difficult to grasp the first time – don’t worry if the first couple look a bit wonky.
The boiling time is very short, shorter than for bagels, for example. They just need a quick dip before baking.
Use two baking sheets if you have them. If you only have one, set aside half the dough, then shape, boil, and bake after the first batch is finished. You don’t want to leave boiled pretzels sitting around waiting to bake.
While I do have lye on hand for making soap, I haven’t tested this recipe using lye water. It’s simply not accessible enough and baking soda is an ideal sub.
These simply don’t store well. If you don’t think you can eat a dozen in one day, I would recommend halving the batch rather than storing. Day old pretzels make excellent croutons, though!
More Spelt Flour Basics
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- 300 ml water at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- ½ cube fresh yeast 2 1/4 teaspoons dried instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 550 grams light spelt flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Coarse salt for topping
- 2 litres water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Add the water, honey, and yeast to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined.
- Stir in the olive oil.
- Add about a third of the flour and the sea salt. Stir to mix, then add the remaining flour and mix until a shaggy dough forms.
- Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until smooth and soft, sprinkling flour over as needed, 5-6 minutes.
- Place the dough back into the bowl and let it rest for ten minutes while you prep the water and oven.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and grease or line two large baking sheets.
- Bring 2 litres (8 cups) of water to boil. Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda and reduce the heat to a high simmer rather than a rolling boil.
- Start shaping the pretzels. Divide the dough into ten equal pieces (I recommend weighing). Shape each piece into a ball, then roll into a long strand, about 40cm (16 in.) in length.
- Form a U-shape with the dough strand. Take each end and cross the dough over itself to make an X at the top, then twist once more, so you have a double twist.
- Lift the twisted end and bring it back toward yourself, then press it down to form the pretzel shape. Brush lightly with water where the dough touches to ensure a better join.
- Repeat until all of the pretzels are formed.
- Boil each pretzel for 15-20 seconds, then carefully remove with a large slotted spoon. Place onto the prepared baking sheets.
- Bake the pretzels for 15-17 minutes, or until golden.
- Cool for ten minutes on the baking sheets before removing and serving.