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Jan 5, 2015

Pretzel Buns (Laugenbrötchen)

Pretzel Buns (Laugenbrötchen) Recipe

I've always wanted to try making pretzel buns. They've always looked so gorgeous with their dark outer crust contrasted against the white interior.

Pretzel Buns (Laugenbrötchen) Recipe

The biggest challenge to getting this dark pretzel crust is using a food grade lye bath. Nothing produces the authentic pretzel color and flavor like a lye water bath.

Lye you ask? The stuff you use to clear your drain? Yep. Fortunately, this stuff is "food grade." It's still pretty corrosive until you bake the rolls. I outfitted myself with latex gloves, long sleeves, and very large glasses. I stirred the lye bath very carefully so that it would not splash out of the bowl.

The dough for these rolls is very easy with which to work. The interior of the rolls is very soft, and the crust is thin and chewy.

My rolls emerged from the oven with lots of blisters (Beatles! White Album! Helter Skelter! Ringo! Please tell me you get the reference!), probably from the slow ferment in the refrigerator. If you do not want the blisters, just shorten the time in the refrigerator.

Pretzel Buns (Laugenbrötchen) Recipe

I slashed half of the rolls by snipping the tops with scissors after sprinkling them with sea salt. Don't they look like little baby birds waiting to be fed? Next time, I will use pretzel salt, because the sea salt tends to melt into the crust over time.

Pretzel Buns (Laugenbrötchen) Recipe

I topped the other half of the rolls with a bagel topping and slashed them with a small knife.

These are wonderful on their own or as sandwich buns. The dough can also be used to make soft Bavarian style pretzels.

These buns are best served the day they are made. Because they are proofed in the refrigerator for at least an hour or overnight, it's convenient to assemble them (there is no first rise), refrigerate them, and then dip and bake them the next day. Fortunately, you don't have to wait for them to cool off. If you do have leftovers, keep them uncovered on a wire rack. The crust tends to get sticky when they are kept in a bag or covered container. You can also freeze them by wrapping them individually in foil and then plastic wrap within the first few hours of baking them. Take the number of rolls you need out of the freezer about two hours before you need them and thaw unwrapped on a rack.

Hints on using the lye: Use a nonreactive (glass or plastic) bowl to mix the water and lye. Do not use aluminum utensils. I used a stainless steel slotted spoon for lifting the rolls out of the mixture and rinsed it off immediately. Definitely use parchment paper on your baking sheets. Mine are aluminum, and I ended up with a couple of marks from the lye. Next time I might try spraying the sheets with oil first, and then lining them with the parchment paper.

Yay! Success! I'm feeling quite empowered now and can't wait to try making these with sourdough!

This month, the #TwelveLoaves bread baking group is baking a "challenge" bread. For me, it was working with lye to make authentic pretzel buns. After the recipe, check out the links for challenge breads baked by our talented bakers. 

Pretzel Buns (Laugenbrötchen) Recipe


1 T barley malt syrup
2 T softened butter
2 T instant yeast
2 C lukewarm water
6 C (about 27 ounces) bread flour
1 T plus 1 tsp Kosher salt
Pretzel salt, coarse sea salt, or other topping

For the lye bath:

1 quart cold water
1/4 C food grade lye


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the syrup, butter, yeast, water, and half of the flour. 
  2. Add the salt and the rest of the flour, and knead with the dough hook for about 10 minutes. The dough will be smooth but not sticky. 
  3. To form the rolls, divide the dough into 16 pieces, and form each into a roll by folding the "sides" under and pinching the seam together. Place the rolls on a parchment lined baking sheet, giving them room to grow. Loosely cover and let rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. 
  4. Refrigerate the rolls for at least one hour, or overnight. 
  5. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 
  6. Place the water in a nonreactive bowl and add the lye. Stir gently until the lye is dissolved. 
  7. Dip the rolls, one-by-one, 10 seconds per side, in the water bath, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
  8. Sprinkle with your topping of choice, and slash or cut the tops.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes. 
  10. Remove from the baking sheet to a wire rack. they can be served warm. They are best served the same day.
Recipe adapted from the New York Times, adapted from Zingerman's Bakehouse

More Pretzel recipes:

Would you like to comment?

  1. I never knew that the lye made them that colour, where did you get it from?

    1. Hi Laura, I got it on Amazon, but I've heard some pharmacies might have it.

  2. Your pretzels look really great. I didn't know the lye water bath method. I'll try it.

  3. "I got blisters on my fingers!" (Old people unite!) Gorgeous as always, Karen. I adore anything pretzel and the lye bath really does make a difference. What's not to love about donning a hazmat suit for a day of baking?

    1. Exactly!! I felt like I should take a shower once I was done =)

  4. Sooooooo impressed, Karen! You truly are a master baker. Decked in latex gloves, stirring, concocting a lye bath - food grade...Woo hoo! And yes your gorgeous pretzel buns do look like little birdies awaiting their treats =)

    1. Like a witch over a cauldron! Thanks so much Kim =)

  5. Gorgeous, Karen! You are my bread hero :-)

  6. Oh my gosh Karen....these are amazing! You are such an incredible baker! I LOVE pretzel rolls, not sure if I have the skill to tackle them, though! And your photography....stunning! : )

    1. Thank you Anne! What a sweet comment. Big smile on my face!

  7. Amazing post, amazing job, I must say I did not get the reference, not for being young (which I am not), but because when I listened to the Beatles I did not speak English, so the lyrics meant nothing to me. Can you imagine that? ;-)

    the image of the birdies waiting to be fed - you hit that one perfectly! I cannot stop smiling....

    on a side note, I washed some glassware with acid today to get rid of iron - I guess I'm ready for some lye ;-)

    1. Ha ha Sally, regarding the Beatles. There was actually a long delay before Ringo shouted it out, and it was only on certain pressings of the White Album. I don't know why, whenever I hear "blisters," I immediately shout "I've got blistas on my fingas" in a Liverpudlian accent!

      I've got the outfit! Lol.

  8. I actually kinda like the blisters...they give 'em character - and the seeds are so pretty. I'm not gonna lie - I'm a bit freaked out to use lye. I always choose the baking soda method (or the baked baking soda bath).

  9. I've always heard that lye was the secret to pretzel anything. And I never thought I'd say I love blisters, but when confined to pretzel buns, I'm all in.

  10. I didn't realize that making Pretzel Buns was so fascinating and dangerous! These look delicious!

  11. Too much lye.. 2 tbls is plenty per liter.
    1/4cup is for similar baking soda alternative recipe.


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