Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pretzel Bread Loaves and Nuggets...

Some time ago, a reader e-mailed me a recipe she had been working on for Pretzel Bread. When Jeff saw this, his eyes lit up and asked if we'd be able to make it. I told him yes, but it fell by the wayside as time went by and after recently finding it again, I knew I had to give it a try and not forget about it this time.

The only "fancy" ingredient you'll need for the recipe is barley malt syrup - this not-too-sweet mixture is made from sprouted barley that has been roasted and slowly cooked down until it becomes thick, dark colored syrup. It is just about half as sweet as regular sugar, yet doesn't have an unusual after taste and is pretty mild - meaning it can meander easily into several recipes with its subtle presence. Why use it in pretzels? Besides not giving much sweetness, it gives bread a rich depth of color. If you don't want to buy this (the syrup can be pricey), you can still make the bread - just swap out honey or brown sugar, though it may lack that authentic attitude.

I used nonfat dry milk and water in the bread dough, but use milk if you like - this is just what I typically have on hand. You can also prepare the dough in a bread machine or a stand mixer if you like, but I love using my hands to knead dough - just try not to add too much excess flour while working it. By the time you are done kneading (using whichever method), you are looking for it to be supple, soft in texture (but firm to the touch) and have a bare tackiness to it.

Shape the bread how you like - make a rustic big pretzel boule, buns or knots for a wicked sandwich roll or do what we did - slender torpedo loaves, along with bite-sized nuggets! The reader who sent me the recipe, J., also suggested you could try to line a strip of dough (about 1 1/2" wide by 12" long) with peanut butter, then seal the dough into a tube and slice into small bites for a sweet and salty treat. If you do that, you may need to stiffen the peanut butter as I imagine using the nut butter alone, it may want to absorb into the bread as it bakes, rather than leaving a generous peanut bomb inside.

As usual with most types of soft pretzels, after being shaped and rested, the loaves and nuggets were dropped in a baking soda bath, then patted dry, brushed with an egg wash, salted generously and then baked. I used a baking stone for both the loaves and nuggets to get the best burst of heat to the dough - again, this doesn't mean you can't make the recipe without use. Just be sure to give the oven plenty of time to heat up and bake them on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

I tried to stave off Jeff, but he tore into one of the loaves as soon as it was cool enough for his fingers to do so, without leaving welts behind. They were everything he had hope for - a robust pretzel taste, with a captivating "fluffy" texture that crossed the line between a soft and a hearty chew. If you intend to store these at room temperature for more than a day, do note that the salt on top will start drawing out moisture and make the top a bit damp - I suggest freezing them if you won't finish the loaves or nuggets quick enough.


  1. Pretzel bread is one of my favorite things, I usually stick with Alton Brown's recipe. I've never seen a recipe with the barley malt syrup before, and I'm curious how the taste differs from my normal loaf. If I can find it in my stores, I'm off to make these loaves. Your slashes on top are beautiful, too! My knives are never sharp enough for that perfect slice!

  2. We just went on a cruise in December and one of my favorite things they had was pretzel breadsticks. I'll have to make this recipe and pretend we're back floating through the Caribbean...

  3. I have never heard of pretzel bread, only pretzel sticks, which I love. I don't have barley malt syrup, I'll be looking for it at the store. I would have dig in also.

  4. This sounds pretty incredible! I can see making this often because I love the texture of bagels and pretzels. Was it difficult to boil the loaf?

  5. Caroline - It is definitely worth seeking out if you can find it. Thanks for the note about the slashes - I still need to work on them!

    Michelle - I love the breadstick idea!

    Helene - Hope you can find it!

    Christina - Awkward may be a better word - you just need a tool big enough to get the loaf out of the water.

  6. Wow they look so good! I've never seen or heard of pretzel bread before. They look fabulous and so beautifully golden.

  7. Katie - Definitely worth the time and effort!

  8. these look SO COOL! i wonder... there is this place here in DC that serves their burgers on "pretzel buns" which are just large, round, sliced pieces of pretzel bread

    it's SO good! with grilled onions and cheese and these garlic mushrooms...

    yummmm. thanks for posting! i may be making my own pretzel bread burgers soon ;)
    @ http://www.clutzycooking.blogspot.com

  9. Hi Joe!
    I am so happy I finally found somebody that had a recipe close to what I was looking for. I've been hunting on-line for over an hour and no one had it. I am looking for Peanut Butter Pretzel Nugget recipes and yours is the closest thing I've found, Thank you! I am also so glad you said, "to make the peanut butter stiff first." I bet I would of never thought of that until it was too late. I am going to try your bread recipe later if I can find the syrup. I am thinking about just going off and making my own version of the nuggets, using your idea of making the peanut butter stiff and cross my fingers it works. lol I'll come back and try those good looking bread loafs soon though, cause they really do look very cool! :)
    I'll have to come back and check out your site too, it looks interesting to me. Thanks once again! Have a great day,

  10. Laura - Good luck with the nuggets! I haven't had the time to try with peanut butter yet. Let us know how it works for you!

  11. Looks delicious! I've struggled with baking, but am working on developing other culinary skills -- particularly chicken wings. Can't get enough of them! http://bit.ly/i7jtif

    I'll be back to check out more recipes!