Pretzel Buns

Pretzel buns are commonly seen eaten with brats or burgers, but one of my husband’s favorite lunches is a chicken sandwich on this specialty bun. After he told me that he liked pretzel buns, I started to buy them during my weekly shopping trips. However, after a while, this started getting spendy. The grocery store only sold them in packages of four for a total of $4. Considering he takes a chicken sandwich to work every single day, this was quickly starting to add up. 

When I had to work from home, I started baking a lot of homemade bread and rolls because I finally had time to wait for the dough to rise. I could still virtually teach while my bread dough was rising, and then the dough would be ready to bake by the time my virtual office hours would be over. This allowed me a chance to try and make my own pretzel buns that would be more cost effective than buying them from the store. 

When flipping through my bread maker manual in the past, I had seen a recipe for pretzel dough, but it still didn’t make sense to me. I knew that making dough alone would not create the golden crunchy texture that pretzel buns are expected to have. After doing some research, I learned the steps and techniques that need to be taken to transform dough so that it is fluffy and soft on the inside, but crunchy and delicious on the outside. 

The dough for this recipe can be made in either a standing mixer or a bread maker, but either way, the dough has to go through the extra steps in order to actually count as a pretzel bun. I will start with my standing mixer instructions, but will also attach the bread maker instructions at the bottom of this recipe. 

Pretzel Bun Directions – Standing Mixer

Ingredients

7 oz Warm Water (90-100 degrees)

½ tsp Sugar

1 ½ tsp Active Dry Yeast 

2 cups Bread Flour

¼ tsp Salt

4 ½ cups Boiling Water

3 tbsp Baking Soda

1. As with my other bread recipes, the first step to making pretzel buns is to activate the yeast. To do this, 7 oz of water has to be heated up. The water should only be warm, not hot. Ideally it should be 90-100 degrees. If the water is too hot when the yeast is added, the yeast will die. If it’s too cold, it won’t activate. When the water is the correct temperature, dissolve the sugar and the yeast into it using a wire whisk. Let the mixture set for about 7-10 minutes. 

Kitchen Tip 1: If the yeast activates correctly, the mixture will be frothy and bubbly on top. If a bubbly froth does not occur in that time frame, then the yeast either didn’t activate or was killed by too warm of water. If that is the case, throw out the mixture and start again. Inactivated yeast causes the bread to rise less, and increases the density of the dough, instead of the desired soft fluffiness that is expected of pretzel dough. 

2. Once the yeast mixture is activated, pour it into the bottom of the standing mixer. Add in all the other ingredients (except the boiling water and baking soda), and use the dough hook attachment to knead it on low for 7 minutes.

3. After the dough has been kneaded, try to transport it to a large, greased, glass bowl. If you notice that the dough is still very sticky to the touch and doesn’t want to separate from your fingers, put it immediately back into the mixer, pour an extra ¼ cup of flour in, and knead it for another minute. This dough is naturally more sticky than others, but it still needs to lose enough of its stickiness so it can be handled. 

4. When the dough is able to be transferred, cover it with either a flour sack towel or cling wrap and let it rise for one hour in a warm location. 

Kitchen Tip 2: Dough rises best when it is stored in an area that is between 80-90 degrees. Some newer ovens have a bread proof button on them that will allow it to reach the best proofing temperature. If that is the case, the bread dough can spend the entire hour in the oven. Otherwise, find the warmest place in the house and store it there. The goal is for the dough to double in size. If it is still quite small after an hour, let it rise a little longer. It is most likely that the cooler temperature is causing this step to take longer. 

5. After the dough has doubled in size, sprinkle a small handful of flour on top of it. Since this is a sticky dough, this is necessary to allow it to be handled and rolled into balls. Mix the flour in using your hands to punch the dough down. Don’t be surprised when you feel some air bubbles pop during this process. The extensive amount of bubbles in the dough is what causes it to be light and fluffy after it bakes.

6. Once the dough is punched down, roll it into balls. The amount of balls is going to depend entirely on how you plan to use the buns. When I make these, I do one of three options. 

-Roll into 5 balls to create hamburger sized buns. 

-Roll into 7-8 balls to create sandwich rolls .

-Roll into 20 balls to create pretzel bites that are DELICIOUS dipped in nacho cheese sauce.

7. When the balls are rolled, it is time to make what’s called an alkali bath. An alkali bath is a mixture of boiling water and baking soda. This is the process that will cause your pretzel buns to get that crispy outside after they have been baked. Start by boiling the water. When it is simmering, dissolve in the baking soda making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot with a rubber spatula to make sure none of the baking soda is stuck to the bottom. 

8. When the alkali bath is lightly boiling, drop four balls of dough into the pot at once. They should float to the top on their own, but if they don’t use the spatula to unstick them from the bottom. Leave the balls in the bath for one minute, turning them with a spoon occasionally to make sure that all of the sides get coated. 

9. After a minute has passed, scoop the balls out with a slotted spoon and set them aside. Repeat the process until all of the dough has been in the bath. 

10. Once the dough has gone through the boiling process, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or use a pizza stone. Set the dough at least one inch apart from each other. 

11. The final step to take before putting the buns in the oven is to score the bread. This is done by taking a sharp knife to press an x into the top of each bun. The balls will flatten a little during this process, but that is okay. They rise back up during the baking process and reform into their original shape. 

12. Bake the buns for 16 minutes and then they will be ready to eat.

I have enjoyed making these pretzel buns so much. There is something extremely satisfying about making a “specialty” bread like this. It makes me feel like the owner of my very own bakery. My husband says these buns are even better than the ones sold in the grocery store, and I am definitely happy saving the money. My personal favorite way to eat these is as miniature pretzel bites. If you are ever having a family movie night and want to change up your snack, I highly recommend trying them out if you are a hot pretzel fan! 

Pretzel Bun Directions – Bread Maker

Ingredients

7 oz Warm Water

½ tsp Sugar

2 cups Bread Flour

¼ tsp Salt

1 ½ tsp Active Dry Yeast

Using a bread maker, the dough for pretzel buns can be made easily, and several steps of my regular instructions can be skipped. Bread makers are definitely a convenient appliance. The only reason I transitioned away from mine is because I’ve been making more recipes in bulk. While I love my machine, the bread maker cannot make as large of batches in comparison to my standing mixer. The bread maker works very well for this recipe though. 

1. An important aspect of a bread maker that should never be ignored is the order of the ingredients. Liquid items should be put in first, then the dry ingredients, and the yeast should always go in last. Not only should the yeast go in last, but a small well should be made in the flour for it to be poured into. This protects the yeast and prevents it from activating too soon. The yeast will not activate until it touches water, and using a bread maker, this isn’t intended to happen until the machine starts stirring ingredients together. 

2. After all of the dough ingredients have been added, select the Dough setting on the appliance and press start. The machine should automatically start to mix all the ingredients.

3. When the bread maker timer is done, the dough will have gone through both the mixing and the rising process all on its own. From this point forward, you can skip to step 5 in my regular instructions above to complete your buns!

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