Homemade sourdough pretzels are easy to make…soft and chewy with just a hint of sourdough tang. It’s a great way to use unfed sourdough starter!
Baking, natural style
In my never-ending quest to make my family’s diet less about commercial processed foods and more about wholesome ingredients, I make sourdough bread, without commercial yeast (yup, you read that right). I received the sourdough starter (descended from a batch more than a century old) for Mother’s Day, 2016, and after trial (and lots of errors), I’m now pretty good at making an extra-tangy sourdough bread. There’s a catch, though…
Sourdough starter is basically flour and water and a colony of wild yeast that needs to be fed, nurtured, cuddled, sung lullabies…you know, babied (ok maybe not quite that last bit…much). To feed sourdough starter, each week you first have to take out some (known as unfed sourdough starter or discard) before adding more flour and water to the crock. If you don’t discard some, you’ll eventually have “the starter that ate Cincinnati” as the crock overflows (especially if, like me, you don’t bake bread every day). I hate to waste anything, so I have to figure out how to use that unfed sourdough starter…in other words, time for sourdough starter discard decisions.
[Side note: if you’re interested in how sourdough starter turns into sourdough bread, I wrote about that in my first Outlander Cast post. Hop on over for a bit…It’s ok, I’ll wait for you…(humming quietly, if a bit off-key)…]
Finding ways to use sourdough starter discard
Great, you’re back! So, back to the discard. If I take out a cup of unfed starter each week, that’s 8 oz of sourdough discard, or 4 oz of flour and 4 oz of water. All I have to do is find a recipe that uses at least that much flour and water, replace those amounts in the recipe, and bake it. And boy, have I gotten creative…savory uses are obvious like rosemary focaccia, bannocks, bagels, English muffins, and dinner rolls. There are sweet uses, too…spice bread, coffee cake, and gingerbread cake (if the dominant flavor is strong enough, the mild sourness is covered up).
One day I was at home with my starter (we’re very close), and I came across a recipe for homemade Sourdough Pretzels on King Arthur Flour. Since it called for unfed starter discard, I knew I had to try it. I adapted the recipe for what ingredients I had on hand and some differences in method. Homemade pretzels, fresh, warm from the oven…mmmmmm…(wiping away drool)…away we go!
You can shape your pretzels any way you’d like. There’s the traditional twist-and-flip, but I also made mini rounds and mini oblong shapes. Or you can go for a pretzel knot, pretzel braided (like challah), or even made sourdough pretzel sandwich rolls (using about 3 oz or 90g of dough). Get creative!
Homemade sourdough pretzels are mind-blowingly good…chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, with just of hint of sourness to add interest. Served with a little brown mustard on the side, these bits of pretzel goodness are the perfect afternoon snack. Amid all the choices I have for using my weekly sourdough starter discard, sourdough pretzels is one that will definitely be repeated!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
- 1 cup unfed sourdough starter (8 oz, 227g)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (12-3/4 oz, 361g)
- 1/4 cup nonfat dry milk, see Recipe Notes
- 3/4 cup water (6 oz, 170g)), lukewarm (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 Tbsp granulated or brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled, or vegetable oil
- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup baking soda (2 oz, 55g)
- 9 cups water
- pretzel salt, or coarse Kosher salt (optional)
- 2 Tbsp melted butter, optional
- prepared mustard, brown or yellow, for dipping (optional)
For the dough
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment (or a bread machine on the Manual setting), mix and knead the dough ingredients to make a cohesive, fairly smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky (add in an additional tablespoon or two of water if it seems dry).
- Cover the dough and let it rest for 45 minutes (it won't rise much). Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly greased work surface, fold it over a few times to gently deflate it, then divide it into 12 pieces, each weighing about 2-1/4 to 2-1/2 oz (65-70g).
- Roll each piece of dough into an 18-inch rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel (see the pictures in the post for examples).
For the water bath
- Bake the pretzels for 12-15 minute, until they're a light golden brown. Note: This is correct; there's no need to let the shaped pretzels rise before baking.
- Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush with melted butter (optional, but who am I trying to kid…of course I brushed the freshly baked pretzels with melted butter!).
- Serve with brown or yellow mustard for dipping (if desired) and enjoy!