Sourdough Pretzel Buns – Trial #1

After having a successful batch of pretzel buns with bakers yeast, I wanted to try making some with my sourdough culture. I made this recipe and method to fit my schedule and was fairly happy with this attempt, although there are definitely things to improve on.

Pretzel buns fresh out of the oven

I scaled this recipe down to make 5 bratwurst sized buns since that’s how many brats I was planning on cooking and I wasn’t sure how this experiment was going to turn out.

Like I mentioned above, this is my first experiment with sourdough pretzels and there is definitely room for improvement. I’ll cover which variables I plan on changing in future experiments later in this post.

Ingredients:

Pretzels:

  • 290g all purpose flour
  • 160mL water @ 90’F
  • 75g active sourdough starter (~1/3 cup)
  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • Pretzel or coarse sea salt for topping (optional)

Water bath:

  • 4 1/4 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp baking soda

Other equipment you’ll want:

  • Stand mixer w/ dough hook
  • bench scraper (for dividing)
  • large baking sheet
  • parchment paper
  • wire rack
  • large pan
  • large slotted spoon or spider
  • lame / sharp knife (for scoring)

Method:

1. Pretzel dough:

In the stand mixer with paddle attachment, add starter and 150g of the flour. Mix to combine into a really wet batter and let it rest for 30-60 minutes. Next, switch to the dough hook and add the rest of the flour, salt, butter and sugar and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a bowl or bucket for a 3 hour bulk fermentation at room temperature. Perform 4 stretch and folds at these times: 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 2 hours and 3 hours.

After the final stretch and fold, cover the dough with a small amount of oil and let it continue fermenting in the fridge for about 17 hours.

2. Shaping the pretzels:

After the dough has doubled in size, remove it from the fridge and transfer it to a floured work surface and knead for about 30 seconds and then shape it into a rectangle. Divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll each of those dough pieces into a bratwurst / hotdog shape and place on an oiled parchment lined baking sheet.

Cover the balls with plastic wrap and let them proof for about an hour.

Shape the dough into a rectangle for dividing

3. Boiling and scoring:

While the dough balls are proofing, start preheating the oven to 425’F.

Get a medium sized sauce pan and add 4 1/2 cups of water and 3 Tbsp of baking soda. Slowly bring the water to a boil, being careful it doesn’t boil over. Have a wire rack with a towel under it ready. After you take the dough balls out of the water bath you’ll want to let them dry on the rack.

When the buns have proofed for an hour, add them two at a time to the water/baking soda mixture. Let them sit in the boiling water for 30 seconds on each side. Transfer the boiled buns to the wire rack and give them a quick score with a lame or sharp knife. This is when you can add pretzel salt, sesame seeds or any other bun topping.

Repeat the boiling process with the remaining buns and score them on the rack as well.

Once the buns are dry, transfer them back to the parchment lined baking sheet, nestling them about 1/2 inch from each other.

Scored and salted pretzel buns

4. Bake the buns:

Bake the buns in the middle rack of your preheated 425’F oven for 16-18 minutes, or until the buns are the desired color.

When the buns are ready, take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting into them.

Changes for Future Experiments:

  • A more active starter – I think I waited about 2 hours too long and my starter had passed its peak activity
  • Adding a higher percentage of starter – Might help with more rise during the proofing period
  • Pinching the folds and creases in the shaped dough before resting – The bottoms hadn’t fully sealed and when I put them in the water bath, they kinda opened like a book
  • Letting the dough rise in temp for 30 minutes before shaping after taking out of the fridge – Might make the shaping step a little easier.
  • Adjusting the time the shaped dough rests before the water bath

Making a meal

I used these buns with some beer soaked brats with some pub style mustard and a generous topping of caramelized onions and bell peppers.

I served the brats with grilled asparagus and some of my Maibock lager.

The complete meal

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