Pretzel Rolls and Soft Pretzels


I felt very Bridget Jones today, but not in a good way that might suggest I look at all like Renee Zellweger or might be able to frolic through rainy streets in my underpants and sneakers without looking like I have to pull my nylons up (while not wearing any). Can I have a do-over?

And remember my mention of far too many bread products consumed over the weekend? I haven’t even slowed down a little bit. How quickly we forget. Or maybe just don’t even care. At least I can say it’s all in the name of research.

My 11 year old niece Emily came over today. When she comes to stay for the day, we always make bagels. Today we broke with tradition and made pretzels and pretzel rolls. Which, like bagels, are nowhere near as complicated as they sound. Honest. The dough is simple to mix and then take turns kneading, and was covered for an hour while she went off to read her book and I to the computer before we converged again in the kitchen to shape them, then boil in water heavily spiked with baking soda, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake.

The Rustic Sourdough Bakery on 17th Ave. SW sells chewy little mahogany rolls sprinkled in coarse salt on Saturdays – they are like the very biggest, softest, chewiest part of a baked pretzel, with none of the scraggly bits. I adore them. While flipping through Tastespotting the other day I immediately zeroed in on some of the same. While most recipes are filed away in my to-make yellow milk crate (seriously, it’s brimming with torn out magazine pages and notes), this got front-of-the-line treatment.

They came close to the ones from Rustic Sourdough, but didn’t quite hit the mark. (I blame myself, and the day, although perhaps I shouldn’t compare my first try with a bakery that has been making them for decades.) I think I need to give them another go, paying closer attention to the order of things this time (I missed the cutting of the crosses, for one, which is what makes them so especially pretty) and trusting the baking soda:water ratio Sarah gives. (I was afraid they might taste metallic. They don’t.) They are chewy, and lovely, but more practice is in order. Maybe not anytime soon.


Pretzel Rolls or Pretzels


May 11, 2009

Adapted from One Fine Day; her recipe instructs 750 g of flour, which according to my calculations (and digital scale) is about 6 cups. I started with less (easier to add more than to take away) and found 4 cups, plus a little extra worked in during rolling, was sufficient.

  • Makes: Makes 10 pretzels or pretzel buns.


2 tsp. active dry yeast

3/4 cup lukewarm water

3/4 cup lukewarm milk

2 Tbsp. canola oil

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

coarse sea salt, for sprinkling

Boiling solution

2 L water

1 Tbsp. salt

4 Tbsp. baking soda


1In a large bowl, stir the yeast into about half of the water (measure it, then just pour a bit into the bowl to make sure the yeast is active); let it sit for about 10 minutes. If it's not foamy, toss it out and buy fresh yeast.

2Add the rest of the water, milk and canola oil to the yeast, then stir in about 3 cups of flour and the salt. Add about a cup more flour, and when it becomes too difficult to stir, turn it out onto the counter top and start kneading. Once all the flour is incorporated, keep kneading, adding extra flour if it's too sticky, for about 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for an hour.

3Cut the dough into 10 pieces and roll each into a ball, or a rope if you want to make pretzels. Cover the balls, or shape the pretzels, then let rest for 15 minutes while you bring 2 L of water to a rolling boil with the salt and baking soda. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

4Boil about 3 at a time, so you don't crowd the pot (they will swell) and bring the temperature down, and simmer for a minute per side. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Sprinkle with coarse salt as soon as they come out of the water, so that it sticks, and if you're doing buns, cut Xs on their tops.

5Bake for 20 minutes, until golden.


So after I downed two pretzels straight from the oven and had a minor panic attack (not over the pretzels – panic attacks burn calories though, right? my heart rate was up about as high as the elliptical trainer gets it) the doorbell rang. It was Aviv, whom I had forgotten was delivering a loaf of his hand-made bread today. I can’t wait to tell you this story.

So Aviv bakes bread. He is practicing the art of artisanal bread baking in the hopes of one day opening his own bakery. In order to practice his craft and further his endeavor to raise money for CODE, a Canadian organization that builds and supports schools and libraries across Africa, he started baking organic loaves and delivering them on his bike (he has a little covered trailer) around downtown Calgary every Monday (his day off). He started off baking 10 loaves a day, and selling them for $6 apiece. Now he has use of a larger oven space (although he still does all the kneading by hand), and today he delivered 50 loaves of delicious caraway-specked light rye, along with small pots of smoked salmon pate made by his friend, Chef Michael Saucy. Mighty cool, don’t you think?

Of course it was last week that I answered his email-out saying yes, I’ll take a loaf, and of course by this afternoon I completely forgot. So I opened the door, all full of pretzels, to a new, fresh, spectacularly beautiful loaf of bread. One guess what I had for dinner.

So now I am attempting a bread detox. Just as soon as I finish Aviv’s light rye.

One Year Ago: Coffee-rubbed Bison Steaks, Ichiban Salad, Smashed Potatoes and Passionfruit Pavlova


About Julie

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42 comments on “Pretzel Rolls and Soft Pretzels

  1. the other allison
    May 11, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Can I be on the mailing list? He can deliver to your place and I’ll pick up there. It would be cruel to make him peddle up this hill! And with pate, OMG! As for the pretzels…I didn’t get the memo you were looking to share.
    jeeze I love pretzels………………….

  2. thepinkpeppercorn
    May 11, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    Ooooh! SO YUM!!! I want these…right…now. Gorgeous photos too Julie!

  3. Anonymous
    May 11, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    mmmmmmm…I live vicariously through you!

  4. Erin M
    May 11, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Anonymous?…oops :)

  5. Sarah
    May 11, 2009 at 11:07 pm

    They look wonderful Julie. I am glad you find my recipe and had some delicious pretzel rolls…:-).

    Gorgeous site by the way.

  6. robin
    May 11, 2009 at 11:12 pm

    yum-o to all the above!

  7. Manon from Ontario
    May 12, 2009 at 4:37 am

    They look wonderful, you take amazing photos Julie.

    I think this is way to advance cooking for moi, but I would love to have one or two, I love bread too!

    Have a good day.


  8. Anonymous
    May 12, 2009 at 6:14 am

    i’d love to know the name of the baker as well. does he have an email or website?

  9. Elaine
    May 12, 2009 at 6:19 am

    Those pretzel rolls do look amazing. I’ve been meaning to make pretzels for months now (same with bagels) and this might be the kick in the pants that is needed…

  10. Barb
    May 12, 2009 at 6:46 am

    It’s easy to let bread become my thing as well. I love the whole process; from starting from scratch to ending bloated. Well, maybe not that part so much!

  11. Clea
    May 12, 2009 at 7:10 am

    Hi Julie,
    a couple of things…when do you do your free stuff fridays draw? because i don’t usually read it until monday. so just wondering.

    also, do you know where to get hallumi cheese? i heard you talking about it on cbc and my new jamie oliver has an awesome recipe i want to try but i don’t know where to find it.


  12. Melissa@ For the Love of Health
    May 12, 2009 at 7:35 am

    Bread is amazing! You can never have enough bread!
    Pretzels look so good! I have to attempt to make them!

    Great story about Aviv! That’s truly selfless work!

  13. Janice
    May 12, 2009 at 8:27 am

    How does Aviv package his bread?

  14. Nishta
    May 12, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Wow. Okay, I’m going to have to “frontline” this recipe, as you did, especially since my blog photographer is somewhat pretzel-obsessed! Just found your site via Foodgawker and I’m very excited to add you to my blogroll.

  15. natalie (MI)
    May 12, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I need a good detox bread facility too! WOW! Talk about comfort.

    Thanks for the laughs too. I am on vacation and still needed to log in to get my Julie dose.

  16. Kate
    May 12, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    The pretzels rolls and soft pretzels and rye loaf all look fantastic. If I could get a bread delivery of such a great looking loaf for a great cause each week, I would greet him at the door with a tub of homemade Boursin and butter knife in hand!

  17. Michelle
    May 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Wow. I wish I could get you both to make a bread delivery to my front door.

  18. Elizabeth L.
    May 12, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Okay, I’ll be the distribution centre for the south, if possible! (I live down in Sundance, which, for those out-of-towners is practically the United States to those in the north or downtown…). Aviv sounds delightful, and your pretzels are going to make a certain 11 year old boy extremely happy. Yum!

  19. rookie cookie
    May 12, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    This would be my dad’s new favorite. Gonna attempt these when he gets back from his business trip. Emphasis on attempt. I am slightly afraid of yeast. But practice makes perfect!

  20. Dana mccauley
    May 12, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    I wish Aviv delivered bread in downtown RIchmond Hill. Sigh.

  21. Cory
    May 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    thank you, thank you, thank you. i’ve wanted to try and make pretzels.

  22. Pat
    May 12, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Julie – Just checked out your kitchen on The Kitchn. I love the feeling of that space. Now I can picture where all the magic happens.

  23. Jess
    May 12, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Julie, you crack me up. I hope you won’t mind if I repeat your hilarious “tweet” from earlier in the day, for the sake of your non-twittering readers: “Can’t seem to quit the bread. Do you think if I strapped a bun to my arm it would work like a patch?” Thanks for the laugh!

  24. Avery
    May 12, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Speaking of bread… I made your banana bread recipe today (I had a surplus of over-ripe ones; I keep trying to get Ruby to like them, which she doesn’t, and Mike will only eat them slightly green). To combat my flat baking I upped the baking soda by 1.5x and… Eureka! Nice and light. So, yes, my soda is probably dying a slow death (and perhaps I’m not a hapless baker after all)…

  25. Jamie
    May 13, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Mmmm if it is home baked bread, either my own or delivered, I would never be able to resist either. Those pretzels look amazing and now I want to try baking some, too.

  26. Carolyn
    May 13, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Julie, my daughter has requested a b-day cake with a chocolate version of the Marshmallow Frosting in OSC. Do you have a recipe for that?

    Love your posts — they continue to be a highlight of my day!

  27. Fiona
    May 13, 2009 at 8:58 am

    The pretzel buns and bread both look delish.

    I just wanted to post here that I made your bagel recipe this morning, and while I may lack some finesse with the making of the circle (so they don’t look like bagels), they taste FANTASTIC! I can’t wait to mess around with the seasonings.

    (For the record, I ate it with herbed cream cheese (dill and garlic…like homemade low-fat Boursin!) and smoked salmon left over from Mother’s Day.

  28. Charmian Christie
    May 13, 2009 at 9:07 am

    I haven’t had pretzels in ages and these are soooo tempting I’m afraid if I try them I’ll OD on carbs.

    The light rye is equally tempting…

  29. Michelle
    May 13, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Any suggestions on how to make pretzels at high altitude? I live at 10,000 ft and baking ANYTHING with yeast or that has to be kneaded is a huge problem. I’ve read all of the adjustments for high altitude and still can’t seem to get it right. Thanks for any help!

  30. Janice
    May 18, 2009 at 7:53 am

    My son and I made the pretzels together yesterday. They turned out amazingly well. All 10 were gone in about 2 hours! Next time, I think we’ll try a double batch.

  31. Benjamin
    May 19, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Most people don’t have food grade sodium hydroxide lying around (lye), but if you’re serious about soft pretzels, it’s worth the 10 bucks + shipping to replace the baking soda for the alkaline bath. I found it yielded a much richer color but more importantly, a cleaner, deeper and more classic soft pretzel flavor. If you’re only doing a batch or two, probably not worth it…but for enthusiasts…you know who you are (don’t forget goggles and gloves, lye is caustic).

  32. Kalynn
    May 19, 2009 at 8:58 am

    Hi Julie,

    I’m fairly sure that I found and made a Thai chicken soup recipe from your website. I’m unable to find it now though. Am I mistaken or am I simply not finding it?


    P.S. LOVE your website!

  33. Ellen
    June 10, 2009 at 9:18 am


    I just wanted to let you know that last night my family did a taste test comparison with Martha Stewart’s pretzel recipe and then yours, and your won hands down! Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe!

  34. Amy
    August 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    I’m looking to try making pretzels, however I live at an elevation that makes it difficult to bake, do you have any suggestions on how to alter the recipe? I’ve also never baked with yeast – any tips? I am DETERMINED to make some pretzels and hope you can help point me in the right direction. Thanks for your time!

  35. Brigitte
    February 21, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Hi Julie,

    just want to tell you that your pretzel recipe is fabulous. It is so true to the taste of the pretzels I used to eat in Germany when I was very young. Here in Ontario I can buy pretzels at Dimpfelmeiers or Denningers, but I have to drive there and sometimes they were sold out when I got there. Now I can bake my own.
    Thanks so much. Brigitte

  36. Claudia
    February 26, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I’ve made different pretzels, but always wanted to try the ones with the water bath. I think I was afraid that I’d end up with a gooey mass — just couldn’t picture boiling dough. I followed your recipe exactly to make pretzel rolls and they were just delicious — and pretty too. Thanks!

  37. Aleisa
    May 15, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Hi I am another person who lives in a high elevation area escazue Costa Rica right outside of San Jose it is about 300,000 ft above sea level give another 100 feet anyway I know that baked recipes that need rising any yeast doughs need to be adjusted but I am not sure what the adjustment s are more liquid less time rising less sugar and salt if you can could i get this recipe adjusted to high altitude? thank you

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