Sunday, June 1, 2008

Bretzel Rolls (or Bavarian Pretzel Sandwich Rolls)

Since Memorial Day has become the de facto start of the "summer grilling season," I decided to go with the flow and make barbecued chicken. Almost immediately my mouth began watering as I thought about delicious sandwiches of tangy, warm chicken topped by cool, creamy cole slaw on a nice soft roll. I really love Stop & Shop's Nature's Promise brand whole wheat sandwich rolls for something like this. They're nice and soft, not loaded with all the crap you find in many brands of soft rolls (like high fructose corn syrup, miscellaneous binders, and artificial colors), and are slightly larger than normal burger buns so you can make a nice size sandwich. Unfortunately, many people must not share my love, because the Stop & Shop I regularly shop at usually has only 3 to 4 bags of them at any given time. Sunday morning when I went shopping, they were nowhere to be found in the entire store. Not wanting to settle, I left roll-less with the idea that I'd come back Monday morning and see if some had miraculously appeared overnight.

I guess I should have known that there was no way I'd feel like going back to the store on Monday just to get rolls (when technically, sandwiches were not absolutely essential to the meal, we'd still have the chicken and all the sides), but I really wanted a barbecue sandwich. I believe it was Plato who first described necessity as "the mother of invention" about 2400 years ago, and he was right on the money. Since I was basically too lazy to drive to the store (which is literally 2 miles from my house and takes about 5 minutes to get to), I decided I would bake some rolls. After a few minutes searching on the internet, I settled on an adapted version of this recipe for bretzel rolls, which are basically soft pretzel-like sandwich rolls. I'm not sure what it is that makes somebody too lazy to drive 5 minutes, but willing to enter into a 2 hour roll making process instead, but I'm glad I have that trait because it led to some great rolls (and some great sandwiches too).

Let me start off by saying that even if you don't bake bread, this recipe is worth a shot. It's not very difficult, doesn't take tons of time, the dough is easy to work with, and you'll be amazed at how deliciously soft and pretzel-ly these rolls come out. You'll be hard pressed not to just keep eating them one after another, trust me. I made my rolls using my Kitchen Aid, but it is by no means necessary, as the mixing and kneading for this recipe is minimal.

Start off by mixing the flour with the yeast (make sure you are using instant yeast, which you can find in the store labeled fast rising, rapid rise, or bread machine yeast, if you use active dry yeast instead you'll have to use a little more than the recipe calls for and proof it first). Combine the melted butter, warmed milk, warm water, and sugar in a bowl and mix until the sugar is dissolved. The recipe calls for 4 cups of all purpose flour, but I substituted 2 cups of bread flour and 1 cup of white whole wheat. I'm sure you could experiment with different types and ratios of flours, but I wouldn't recommend going more than 50 percent whole wheat at first.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until you have a nice, shaggy dough ball.

Using the dough hook, knead for 2 minutes, or alternately, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 2 minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft, and pliable but not sticky. If it is very sticky, you should knead in some more flour to achieve the proper consistency. Round the dough into a ball.

Using a bench scraper, or a sharp chef knife, cut the dough ball into 2 even pieces. When cutting dough, you want to use downward pressure to cut through the dough, not a back and forth sawing motion. Round the pieces and cut them again. Repeat this process until you have 8 even size dough balls. Cover the balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 10 minutes.

Pat the balls into slightly flat rolls about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Place the rolls on a lightly floured counter, cover them with plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with oil, and let them rest for 30 minutes. They will rise a little bit during this time.

While the rolls are resting, preheat the oven, get the baking pans ready, and bring the water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the baking soda. My advice is to use a deep pan and add the baking soda a little at a time (I used a shallow pan and added it all at once, resulting in an eruption of water all over my stove top and down into my oven, not fun). Boil the rolls two at a time for 30 seconds, turning once. Drain the rolls and place them on the prepared baking sheet (the original recipe said to place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet, but when I make this recipe again, I will use parchment paper sprayed with a bit of oil, as I think this will prevent the bottoms from getting overly browned - I almost burned mine but caught them just in time). Sprinkle the rolls with a bit of kosher salt.

Bake the rolls for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are nicely browned all over. Remove the rolls to a rack and allow them to cool. These rolls are absolutely delicious. They are chewy and slightly sweet, perfect for a sandwich or eating by themselves. I didn't have any leftover, but I've read that you should store them uncovered, for no more than 2 days. If you place them in a covered container, they apparently get soggy (I doubt you'll have leftovers).

You could easily scale this recipe up or down to make more or less, cut the rolls into smaller pieces and use them as dinner rolls, roll the dough into long strips and shape them into pretzels, or anything else you can think of. I bet they would be a huge hit at a children's party. I can't wait to try these out for burgers.

Bretzel Rolls (adapted from
2 hours start to finish - Makes 8 sandwich size rolls
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast which will need proofing)
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • kosher salt
  • spray oil (I really like this stuff, the high heat canola is great)
  1. Mix the flour and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer (or a large bowl)
  2. Melt the butter and warm the milk
  3. Combine the butter, milk, water, and brown sugar in a separate bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved
  4. Add the butter mixture to the flour and stir until all the flour is hydrated and you have a firm, pliable dough ball
  5. Using the dough hook, knead the dough for 2 minutes, or if you're kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes
  6. Round the dough into a ball and cut it in half with a bench scraper or chef knife
  7. Continue rounding and cutting 2 more times until you have 8 even dough balls
  8. Arrange the balls on a lightly floured surface, cover with a damp cloth, and allow them to rest for 10 minutes
  9. Pat the dough balls into rolls by slightly flattening them (you should have a semi-flat disc about3 to 4 inches in diameter)
  10. Arrange the rolls on a lightly floured surface about 1 inch apart, cover them with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and allow them to rest for 30 minutes
  11. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, line one large 3/4 sheet pan, or two 1/2 sheets with parchment paper, spray the paper lightly with oil
  12. In a large stockpot, bring the water to a rolling boil and add the baking soda (make sure the pot is deep enough that it doesn't boil over when you add the baking soda, you may also want to add the baking soda slowly to lessen the chance of boil over)
  13. Drop 2 rolls into the boiling water and boil for 30 seconds, turning once
  14. Remove the rolls from the water with a slotted spoon, drain them, place them on the prepared sheet pans, and sprinkle lightly with salt
  15. Once all the rolls have been boiled, bake on the upper and middle rack of the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the rolls are nicely browned all over, shifting the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through cooking
  16. Remove the rolls and transfer them to a wire rack
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature


Peggasus said...

Those are gorgeous! I've had pretzel rolls on deli trays before and loved them. I'm trying these this week! Thanks!

The Good Geek said...

I found your recipe via TasteSpotting. It looks really tasty, and I'm going to try it this week!

Anonymous said...

First, you made me laugh. Not wanting to drive 5 minutes, but being willing to spend four hours baking, is just the kind of logic I would use. It's not just about the time involved, but rather, you were not willing to settle for less than what you wanted in that moment. Dang it, you wanted those wheat rolls, and if you couldn't have those, you'd rather just make something else tasty. I totally get that.

Next, I love pretzel bread, pretzel croissants, bretzel bavarian bread, you name it, and I automatically discount any recipe which doesn't require boiling in a baking soda bath.

I wish I had read this earlier in the day because your recipe looks so tasty. I would have done so earlier today. Now I'll just wait until later in the week and make some of your rolls.

You're right about the storage. Salted bread turns wet when it's covered in plastic, but I do okay in one of those bakery bags that are plastic, but very porous / perforated, or, in a wax lined paper bag with room to breathe. They freeze beautifully and toast up in the toaster oven quickly. Doesn't matter much, they don't last.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your pretzel roll adventure with us! These look like they have the perfect texture.

MoonlitKnit said...

Baked these up today. They are awesome. Everyone loves them. I would like to try making them bite-sized as well.

Darron said...

Thanks for the nice comments everybody...I hope the recipe works out as well for you all as it did for me!

Thistlemoon said...

I have started making all my own breads now too, in order to avoid all the garbage they put in bread now!
These look great!

Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

Angel said...

they're so round : D I love them I love them I want to rolllll themm

Anyways, I'll be trying this recipe ^^ Great job.

Nikki @ NikSnacks said...

You changed your blog without telling anyone (well, maybe just me...)! I had you in my RSS reader and I had to take you off because I didn't know where you had gone!
I have a LOT of reading to do now, my friend.

Anonymous said...

I know this was posted a while ago, but I wanted to thank you for this recipe. I just ate my first one and these are definitely going to be standards in our kitchen!