Their fun shape makes them great to eat and also very convenient to carry around. They come in many different sizes – from the larger, heftier pretzels to the smaller, thin pretzels sticks.
But what about pretzel rolls? Where do these come from, how do you make them, and are they worth the effort?
Let’s dive in and find out.
History and Origin
Since they are widely beloved, pretzel – as sticks or rolls – have been around for a very long time.
Many different stories tell the origin of the pretzel. The most common tale states that it was invented by a European monk, who first developed the classic pretzel shape to resemble hands in prayer.
Another speculation is that pretzels are of pagan origin, and can be traced back as far as 743. Other stories set the pretzel’s debut to 12th century Germany, where pretzels were used as a guild emblem.
The pretzel was also a popular bread in the Christian Church; it was the perfect bread for Lent, as it didn’t contain any eggs, lard, or dairy.
It eventually became popular during Easter as well; instead of eggs, pretzels were hidden for Easter morning.
There are many different types of pretzels all over the world, but perhaps the most traditional pretzel recipes can be found in German baking traditions.
For centuries, southern Germany and German-speaking Switzerland have included pretzels in their bakeries and homes, sold with pieces of cold meats and cheese.
Of course, there are sweet pretzel varieties in the region. Christmas-time sees pretzels made of gingerbread and covered in chocolate.
A few notable variations include the pudding pretzels. As their name implies, these pretzels are made with loops that are filled with pudding.
Another noteworthy variation is the anise pretzel, which is – you guessed it – a pretzel flavored with anise.
Pretzels have been popular in the United States since German immigrants brought them across the Atlantic in the 18th century.
One of the most notable developments in the way we eat pretzels happened in 1850, in Pennsylvania, when a bakery invented hard pretzels as a snack food.
For the first time, pretzels were created without their iconic loop and were instead shaped as braids, sticks, and letters. These hard pretzels were effortless to sell, as they had a longer shelf-life and were easier to ship.
Another big difference in American pretzels is the flavors. Compared to the savory, salty taste of traditional pretzels, the U.S. uses sweeter flavors, like strawberry, chocolate, and yogurt.
Chocolate-covered hard pretzels are very popular, often used alongside other desserts, like ice cream and cake toppings.
Pretzel rolls are a relatively modern variation of the traditional pretzel. They are delightful to eat with sandwiches, to dip in sauces, or to simply enjoy straight. They are also far easier to make, as you don’t have to assemble the traditional pretzel shape.
If you’re new to baking pretzel rolls, soda baths may be entirely new to you.
Soda baths are an extra step that pretzel rolls undergo just before baking.
While it may seem unnecessary, a soda bath is essential for priming the dough to create that pretzel crust.
The reaction that the baking soda undergoes in high temperature creates what we call the Maillard reaction, which results in that crunchy, flaky crust we all love.
How to Make Your Own Pretzel Rolls
Today, it’s easy to find a food cart or stall that sells freshly made pretzel rolls. But why not try your hand at making them personally?
For the Dough
3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoon) of active dry yeast. 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. 1 cup of water at 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
To Poach the Pretzels
8 cups of water. ¼ cup of baking soda. Coarse salt. Method In a large bowl, mix the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Create a well in the center of the mixture, add warm water, and mix well. If the mixture is too tough to mix, add more water, one tablespoon at a time until you can mix the ingredients properly. Spread a good amount of flour on your working space and knead the dough for about ten minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic. If you don’t want to use your hands, you could use a stand mixer, mixing for two to three minutes with a dough hook. Grease a large bowl. Place the bread inside. Cover with a damp towel and place in a warm area. Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes. After rising, the dough should have at least doubled in size. Knead the dough a few times, and divide the dough into twelve even pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Place each piece on a greased sheet of parchment or wax paper, spaced about two inches apart to give them space to rise. Cover them loosely with a damp towel, and let rise for about 20 to 30 more minutes. While the dough rises, boil eight cups of water in a ¾-quart pot. Then, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. When the dough has finished rising, slowly add the baking soda to the water. The baking soda will fizz, so be careful! Lower the heat to a gentle simmer. This simmer will produce a smooth crust on your bread. Gently lower the rolls into the water, just enough that they don’t touch each other in the pot. Flip each roll after 30 seconds. Each roll should be just slightly browned. Remove each dough with a slotted spoon, letting the water drain back in the pot before placing the doughs on a greased baking sheet. After poaching all the doughs, cut an X onto the top of each roll with a serrated knife. Sprinkle the top of the doughs with coarse salt. Bake for 14 to 15 minutes, until the dough has nicely browned. Let cool on a wire rack.
This video shows another example of how to make pretzel rolls at home.
Can You Use a Bread Machine?
Because this recipe is made with yeast, it’s always best to knead your dough by hand.
Kneading by hand is an excellent way to ensure that you don’t over-knead your dough, especially for those who aren’t used to baking with yeast.
However, if you’re confident in your baking skills, it is possible to use a bread machine to cook a pretzel roll.
1 and 1/8 cups (9 ounces) of warm water. 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces. 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour. 3 tablespoon of nonfat dry milk. 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of instant or bread machine yeast. Coarse salt for topping.
8 cups of water. 1/4 cup of baking soda. 1 tablespoon of salt. Method Other than coarse salt, add all the ingredients in your bread machine following the order given. Select the dough cycle. Check the dough after a few minutes. It should be a slightly sticky consistency. After the dough cycle, remove the dough from the pan to a tray lined with greased parchment paper. Now, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare another baking tray with parchment paper. Grease and flour the parchment paper generously. This will be the tray on which you bake your pretzel rolls. Divide the dough into eight small balls. Let them rest for 15 minutes. While the dough rests, begin boiling the water for the soda bath. Put the water in a pot, and add in soda and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature of your water bath, so that it is barely a simmer. Slowly drop each ball into the soda bath. Cook each side for 30 seconds. Transfer the boiled buns onto the new tray with parchment paper. Be careful; these buns will be very sticky! To let air escape while baking, create cuts on the surface of the bread. Do this by taking a serrated knife and cutting an X on the top of each bun, about half an inch deep. Sprinkle the top of each bun with coarse salt. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Remove the buns and let them cool on a rack.
Pretzel Roll Sandwich Ideas
Of course, you may want to eat your pretzel rolls as a sandwich. The taste of a pretzel bun is perfect for sandwiches and complements almost any flavor.
Here are some recipes to get you started.
Ham and Cheese Honey Mustard Pretzel Melts
This recipe pairs the tangy flavors of honey mustard with the saltiness of pretzel buns, a flavor combo for the ages.
Plus, these sandwiches are baked in the oven to melt the cheese —and there’s nothing quite as indulgent as melted cheese.
Since they are already wrapped in foil, these sandwiches are very portable. Opening them up to find that melted, cheesy goodness feels like unwrapping a gift.
Creates six servings.
2 tablespoons of honey. 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard. 1 tablespoon of softened butter. 6 soft pretzel rolls. 6 slices of medium cheddar cheese. 6-12 slices of honey ham.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, mix honey, mustard, and butter until smooth. Slice each pretzel roll in half, and spread the mixture on each side. Top with half a slice of cheddar cheese, ham, then the other half of the cheddar cheese. Wrap in foil and bake for ten minutes. Creole Honey Mustard Chicken Sandwich
Of course, who doesn’t love a good chicken sandwich? This recipe takes the flavors of your favorite chicken sandwich and elevates it with a pretzel bun.
Topped with cajun and dijon mustard, this chicken sandwich is sure to be your next favorite.
Creates six servings.
2 tablespoon of cajun seasoning. 1/2 cup of dijon mustard. 1/2 cup of honey. 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. 6 chicken breasts. 6 cheese slices (preferably provolone). 6 pretzel buns.
Whisk together the cajun seasoning, dijon mustard, honey, and lemon. Pour over the chicken and allow it to marinate for several hours to overnight. After marinating, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken three minutes on each side to brown the skin slightly. Place the skillet in an oven and bake for an additional ten minutes. Top the chicken with cheese. Return inside the oven until the cheese has melted. Place the chicken on a pretzel bun. Top with lettuce, tomato, and honey mustard dressing.
By Hungry Dudes (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 licence)
Pretzel Bread Veggie Sandwich
For those who want to have a vegetarian alternative, this recipe is for you.
This veggie sandwich uses avocados and gouda cheese to complete the flavors of your pretzel buns. Arugula also adds that fresh crunch to this sandwich.
Whether you’re a vegetarian or just dislike deli meats, this recipe is a tasty way to get more greens into your day.
Creates one serving.
1 pretzel roll. 1/2 avocado, sliced. 1/2 tomato, sliced. Handful of arugula. 6-7 slices of cucumber. 1-2 slices of gouda cheese. Dijon mustard or dijon vinaigrette.
Slice the pretzel bun. On one half of the bun, layer the cucumber, tomato, gouda cheese, arugula, then the sliced avocado. (for those who are using a dijon vinaigrette, drizzle the vinaigrette on the arugula before adding the avocado.) Spread the dijon mustard on the other half. Bring both halves together, and enjoy!
This video shows another way you can use pretzel rolls.
Pretzel buns are a great treat, and can be eaten in many ways! Whether you have it with a bit of yogurt for a snack or eat it as a whole sandwich for dinner, pretzel rolls have your back.
Now go out there and get cooking!
What’s your favorite pretzel bun recipe?