pretzel parker house rolls Recipes

pretzel parker house rolls

There are kitchen discoveries that lead to nothing but trouble. The first time I caramelized sugar, I knew I was ruined. Why would anyone want to eat drab white sugar if they could eat it cooked to a 100x as delicious toasty amber syrup? The first time I tried browned butter, I went on a butter-browning bender (cookies! breadcrumbs! crispy treats!) which, frankly, shows little sign of abating today. So, it should be no surprise that when I finally cracked the authentic pretzel-making code six months ago, I didn’t know where to stop. Everything comes up pretzel now! I’ve made pretzel scones and pretzel challahs. I’m dreaming of pretzel shortbread and popovers, pretzel bagels and grissini. I might need an intervention.

kneaded and doughy
a bored-of-watching-dough-rise selfie

But before you all gather round my canister of food-grade lye, my latex gloves and the onion goggles I really should have more shame about owning, and sit me down for a talk about where things are going, I think we need one more pretzel thing this year, and I’d like to believe I saved the best for last.

my unscientific way of dividing doughs

turning wedges into rolls
rolls, to proof
baking soda or lye wash
followed by an egg wash to make it shiny
make deeper slashes than i did

Everyone should have a great recipe in their arsenal for Parker House rolls, which are easily the most perfect little dinner rolls on earth. Rich with butter and milk, tender and stretchy underneath a lightly crisp shell, they’re easy to make and hard to mess up. Warm from the oven, they are never unwelcome, and we like them as much for brunch (butter and jam or lox and cream cheese, please), weeknight dinners (tiny pulled chicken sliders) and kindergartener-sized lunchbox sandwiches, as for dinner parties. And what better time to share my favorite recipe than right on the cusp of all of the holiday entertaining ahead? I mean, I figure we’re all going to be gluten/carb/refined sugar-free by New Year’s, we might as well live it up until then. So, that was my plan: share a classic recipe for Parker House rolls. But when I saw all of those lovely humps lined up in the pan, all I could hear was the little voice in my head that whispers pretzel them to everything. And I see no reason to argue with the voices when there’s deliciousness at stake.

parker house pretzel rolls
i live with boys
pretzel parker house rolls

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Pretzel Parker House Rolls

Yield: 16 small rolls. See note below about doubling.

Rolls
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons (half a 1/4-ounce or 7-gram packet) active dry yeast
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to coat bowl
2 cups flour, either all-purpose or bread flour, or a mix thereof, plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt

To finish
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda or food-grade lye (see Notes below)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Pretzel salt, coarse salt or sesame seeds

Make dough: Warm milk and sugar together until they’re about 105 to 110°F (41 to 44°C) in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. If you don’t have a thermometer, the correct temperature is when you can dip your finger into the liquid without noticing any temperature change (i.e. not warmer or cooler than your finger). Add yeast to milk-sugar mixture and let stand for 5 to 7 minutes. It should dissolve and become slightly foamy.

Stir in butter, then 3/4 of flour, the salt, then remaining flour. Using spoon (for manual mixing) or dough hook (of a stand mixer), mix the dough until it forms a slightly sticky dough that balls together. If making by hand, turn out onto a floured counter and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. If using a machine, let the dough hook do the work, running it for 5 minutes on low. If, at the end of the kneading process, the dough still feels quite sticky (a little sticky is good; more tips here), add 1 more tablespoon flour.

First rise: With kneaded dough on counter, butter or oil your mixing bowl. Return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a draft-free warmish spot for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.

Second rise: Butter an 8×8-inch square or equivalent size baking pan (such as a 9-inch round cake pan or deep-dish pie plate). Flour your counter and let dough fall out onto it. I like to take advantage of the round shape left by the bowl to divide my dough into even-enough wedges, like slices of a pie. Divide into 16 pieces. Form each into a round. Arrange seam side-down in prepared pan, with an even amount of space between rolls. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour. About 10 minutes before the hour is up, begin the next step to heat the oven and prep pretzel wash.

Pretzel it! Heat oven to 375°F (190°C). If using the baking soda option, bring your water to a boil and slowly stir in baking soda — it will foam up. If using the food-grade lye option, do not heat your water, just stir the lye into the water in a sink, wearing gloves (see more precautions in Notes below).

Thoroughly brush tops and creases between rolls (as best as your brush can get in) with the lye or soda pretzel wash. Rinse brush and beat your egg with 1 teaspoon water. Brush the rolls a second time, this time with the egg wash. Sprinkle rolls with either sesame seeds or coarse salt. Use a sharp paring knife to make +-sign slashes in the top of each roll; you want to cut at least 1/2-inch down (I always make my cuts too shallow and they get lost when baked).

Bake: Bake rolls for 20 to 25 minutes, until a lovely brown on top. Let cool in pan on rack. Salt-topped rolls are best on the first day. Sesame-topped rolls keep better, and can easily be frozen and stashed for future bread emergencies urgencies.

Notes:

  • Doubling this recipe: This can be doubled in a 9×13-inch pan, to yield 24 (in 4×6 rows), 28 (7×4 rows) or 35 (7×5) rows. For the 24-roll yield, allow 5 extra minutes of baking time.
  • Soda vs. Lye Wash: I tested these a few ways. I realize that most people, people more sane than me, do not keep, or do not wish to keep, food-grade lye around to pretzel everything with, and made a batch half-brushed with the baking soda wash and half-brushed with the lye wash [see here] so you could see the difference. Yes, the baking soda wash is more pale, but you’d only know this if you were comparing it to the lye wash. The pretzel flavor is still there, which is what really matters.
  • Glossiness: That said, I had really wanted these rolls to be glossier and in the next batch, followed the soda/lye washes with an egg wash. You can absolutely skip this if you don’t want the extra step (or don’t eat eggs), but it does add a nice sheen.
  • Salt vs. Sesame Seeds: Finally, I sprinkled half of each batch with coarse salt and the other half with sesame seeds. It’s best to eat the salted ones right away; the salt will eventually dissolve when leftovers are wrapped, even in the freezer.
  • Food-Grade Lye: If you’re thinking about trying out food-grade lye, here’s what you need to know: Lye is a strong akali which is highly soluble in water. Food-grade lye is FDA approved in the U.S. To use it, it’s best to wear latex gloves (though even dishwashing ones work), an apron and goggles (swim or onion goggles work too) for extra protection. Mix the lye in a glass or plastic bowl, as lye can corrode reactive metals. I do this right in the bottom of an empty sink; it’s totally safe to pour down the drain with water running, so long as you don’t have a septic system (although I couldn’t find complete agreement about whether or not septic would be an issue) — food-grade lye is a very mild drain opener! To clean up, I usually wash my gloves while still wearing them, as if washing my hands, with dish soap and rinse down the sink before removing my gloves. It sounds scary, but it’s a very simple process. I bought my bottle of lye in the Williamsburg location of Brooklyn Kitchen. You can also order it from Amazon or Modernist Pantry.

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222 comments on pretzel parker house rolls

  1. Oh wow, these look incredible. I’ve been meaning to try making my own pretzels but the whole lye situation scares me (anyone seen Fight Club?) These look much more manageable. Have to put this on my Thanksgiving menu ASAP.

  2. As a relative newcomer to North America, and a Canadian resident, I don’t personally have a lot of experience with Parker House rolls. However, the adorable nestling of these amber-coloured puffs, their very obvious butteriness, and the general appeal of stuffing my face with pretzel dough that isn’t at all rough or dry is enough to sway me. Thanks for becoming obsessed enough with pretzel-making as to have come up with these!

  3. This is genius, really. This just might be my contribution to my family Thanksgiving dinner, I mean who wouldn’t be impressed by these gorgeous rolls. Thanks again, Deb.

  4. I just keep drooling when I’m on your blog! I’m not a big fan of Pretzels but absolutely love Parker House Rolls!! This might be my gateway into the Pretzel world! :) Awesome! These look delicious!

  5. Are these are regular parker house rolls, with the salt on top creating the ‘pretzel’ taste? If not, what is the difference between a regular parker house roll recipe and these?

  6. Jo Jo — Butter! 2 tablespoons melted butter is usually brushed over the rolls before baking. No need for egg glaze or soda/lye pretzel wash. A few flecks of sea salt, however, are wonderful on top of the butter, if it’s not salted.

    Arlene — The soda/lye wash darkens the top and provides the pretzel flavor. Traditionally, pretzels are dipped into a lye bath, which is what separates them from rolls shaped like pretzels.

  7. Any hints for doing these ahead? I’d like to bring them to Thanksgiving and probably wouldn’t be able to do any rises or bake them off right before. Do you think they’d be ok done in advance and warmed up?

    1. Sam — Have you tried it? I brought it up in the last pretzel post — I hadn’t auditioned it — but I heard from people that it didn’t make things much darker or more pretzel-y than the standard baking soda wash so I skipped mentioning it here. Would love to hear if it worked well/better for anyone.

  8. Thanks. Deb. I made your chicken stock from just chicken wings, etc. like you posted. It’s divine and so much less work. Now onto Parker House Rolls.

  9. I have made pretzels with lye, baking soda, and baked baking soda, and I think the baked soda is very close to lye results! I may bake a bit longer than Harold calls for, but I can’t say that I pay much attention. Just stir ever once in a while until much lighter than you started.

  10. Would that everyones “buns” were this cute! The blue jeans manufacturers would be ecstatic. Instead I think I will make these cute buns and eat them all, which should make Omar the Tentmaker’s day. ( And mine too!)

  11. I had no idea you could just brush on the soda/lye. This will make it possible for me to make that Pretzel pizza crust I’ve been having dreams about.

  12. I already have food grade lye! And I have a cookie sheet that I made pretzels on once without parchment that will forever have the outline of pretzels. I think as long as you’re smart about using lye it’s not scary…I never wear goggles, but I also make sure I’m careful when I mix the lye and water so it doesn’t splash in my face.

  13. Two clarification questions:
    1. So if someone is picky about weighing their ingredients (all your fault, BTW!), is it 3.5 grams of yeast? Or is a packet of yeast 14 grams? I bought a jar so no longer have a clue!
    2. By “add 3/4 of flour”, do you mean three-quarters OF the two cups of flour, then the salt, then the remaining 1/2 cup (one-quarter of two cups) of flour? or 3/4 cup of flour, then salt, then 1.25 cups of flour? (related: does it even matter THAT much?)

    My pretzels are always a hit, BTW… I’ve made them with water and whey left over from making yogurt! My husband looooves them.

  14. You have no idea how happy I got when I saw this recipe!! My family LOVES parker house rolls. And by loves, I mean we eat our weight in them every Christmas and Thanksgiving! I can’t wait to make this recipe and might even make it to bring for Thanksgiving this year! :)

  15. I did a ton of research before finally coming up with an authentic pretzel: http://bit.ly/1m9MX9W

    However, it never occurred to me to add the lye flavor to other breads. I always considered the chew—what you get from boiling the dough and then giving it a quick dip in the lye-infused water—to be integral to the whole pretzel thing. But I guess not! Now I’m eager to give this a go.

  16. I just had a pretzel like this with some welsh rarebit-esque cheese at a restaurant in Seattle. I think it would be divine to try it at home!

  17. Torture. Delicious. I can’t wait to try those out.
    We have done the whole lye-Bretzel-thing with gorgeous results and my husband is bugging me to do them again. Thanks for the support, Deb. And these look like German Laugenbrötchen though I suspect they will be deliciously soft on the inside. Torture, as I said.

  18. Could you please weigh in on how best to make these ahead and/or travel with them? Are they conducive to either A) refrigeration during/after the proofing process so that they can be prepped ahead, then transported across town and baked before dinner, or B) baked in the morning and then rewarmed just before dinner? Or some third option I haven’t thought of? Thank you!

  19. How funny! I just tried making pretzels for the first time 2 days ago. I knew the lye bath would make a superior pretzel, but I really didn’t want to deal with it, so I went with the baking soda. They were “okay”, but disappointing. Certainly not anything like real Bavarian pretzels. I wouldn’t bother to make pretzels again that way. But pretzel rolls, maybe.

  20. Doing ahead, three ways:

    1. Make the dough and put it in the fridge in a bowl before the first rise. I haven’t tested this for a full 24 hours for the first proof in the fridge, but I did leave mine in for several hours on one of my batches and think it would be fine overnight. The next day, you can form the rolls and bake them off an hour later.

    2. Do the first rise on the counter, form the rolls, put them in the fridge overnight in their baking pan. The next day, get them back almost to room temperature from the fridge and bake them off.

    3. Bake them off in the morning; they’ll keep just fine until the evening. Although these rolls keep fine, they’re more wonderful on the first day. I’d either eat them the day I baked them, or bake them up to a week or two in advance and freeze them (use the sesame seed option, as I mentioned in the notes) and warm them up when you get where you’re going.

    sarah — The boiling is usually only used with the baking soda pretzels, not the traditional Bavarian lye-dipped ones (lye should be kept cold). These rolls have the pretzel flavor and look, but not texture. Inside, they’re a true Parker House roll.

    Kat — Yes. Aluminum is definitely reactive.

    Jennifer Jo — Those are beautiful! I hadn’t heard of boiling then lye-dipping pretzels. I thought only a cold lye dip was needed to get the pretzel flavor color (or, I found this to be when I made these). It sounds like you experimented a lot — did you try it with and without boiling first and found the boiling superior? Thanks.

    Jess — I will add the weights shortly so it will be less confusing but yes, 3.5 grams; packets are usually .25 ounces or 7 grams. 3/4 of the flour is 3/4 of the whole amount (you can just eyeball this). The main thing you’re trying to do is add the salt directly to the yeast mixture. Salt kills yeast. That’s why it’s usually mixed into flour before being added but that’s an extra bowl and step. This seems easier.

    Emily — Great to know! I felt like the reviews were mixed last time. I’m glad to hear (and need to try it, too).

  21. I did the lye bath with your pretzel roll recipe and felt like I had found the holy grail. If anyone is wondering, the lye is worth it. I had pure lye on hand from making soap. In years past I had used baking soda and it just never was quite right. Now I have to make these for my daughter and her roommate who are coming home for Thanksgiving. I will make regular ones too as there is serious rebellion if I mess to much with that meal. My littlest will be back home next September and fell in love with German pretzel rolls. he will be thrilled when he finds out I can make them now.
    Also your writing is wonderful.

  22. Have you ever tried snipping the +-signs in with kitchen shears? I wonder if that would be easier to get a deep cup without feeling like you’re squishing the rolls. (That’s what always holds me back!)

  23. It is completely insane to me that something you need goggles and gloves to handle would be added to food you eat! Isn’t that a good sign that it may not be too good for your health?

  24. Vicki — Yes, it should work just fine.

    Carolyn — I actually bought the goggles for onions, and the gloves to peel butternut squash without irritating my skin, so…

    Kari — I haven’t. I should; I keep meaning to try it. But it shouldn’t deflate the rolls a whole lot, if the knife is sharp.

  25. Re your question about the difference between boiling and not boiling: yes, I experimented, and the results are as follows:

    “Unboiled pretzels are puffier, cakier, drier. The boiled pretzels are marvelously dense and chewy. It’s like the difference between a dinner roll and a bagel.”

    (There is a photo illustrating the difference between the two in this post—it’s two photos above the recipe itself: http://bit.ly/1m9MX9W)

    But I still think it’s a great idea to brush bread with the lye mixture. You won’t have the chew, but the lye would give it a huge flavor boost.

  26. speaking of browned butter ;) have you ever tried it on lobster or crabmeat rather than drawn butter? Or to dip artichoke leaves into? Omigosh!!!

    Love all the pretzel goodness!

  27. I was wondering if I made the dough and let it rise while I go to work, will that be top much rising time? Or if I made them on Monday night, will they still be good on Wednesday?

  28. As a resident of the other side of the world, thank you for the new (to me, anyway) half-year call-back links! And thanks for this must-try recipe!

  29. “Freezed”? Frozen probably (unless you are of course boycotting a certain pop-culture icon right now and i missed it). I had to laugh when i read that. Knowing what an editing nut you usually are. In the final paragraph in the baking instructions. :) Meanwhile, i’m nursing a little one who is very sensitive to dairy and I foresee a very sad holiday season approaching! OH the butter, the cream, the yogurt, the EVERYTHING!

  30. Can Koon Chun potassium carbonate & sodium bi-carbonate (kansui) be substituted in equal quantities with the lye water? I.e., in this recipe, use 1 1/2 tsp Koon Chun added to 12 cup water?

  31. Omigosh! I love it. THANK YOU for thinking of us down here. I’ve been living in Argentina for two years now and still go to my Northern Hemisphere reads – NYTimes “Food” section, Epicurious etc AND OF COURSE smitten kitchen. Smitten is actually the one I ALWAYS have to check. But when all you see are recipes for Thanksgiving and the trees are starting to bloom and strawberries are in the market. It’s really topsy-turvy! Thank you, thank you. I would never expect it but it’s a very considerate! But no matter what, I still enjoy each new recipe here and will be making these very soon.

  32. have you considered pretzel hotdog roll? it seems impossible to find any worth eating. i believe jackson hole ski resort has a supplier who makes great rolls, and i think it is pretzel dough. so much more can go into a hotdog roll than hotdogs, too.

  33. My question has always been–WHY did someone ever look at a container of lye and think dunking bits of unbaked bread dough in it before baking was a good idea?????

  34. Pretzel challah sounds AMAZING. Did you have a specific pretzel challah recipe – or could I just use this dough recipe for challah, braid it, and treat it with the soda wash? Should I double the dough recipe if using it for challah? How long would you bake it for?

  35. Love, love, love it! I’ve never had a Parker House Pretzel roll. :/ Are these more on the pretzel chewy/doughy side or more like a dinner roll that looks like a pretzel? Also, are you on Pinterest?? Thank you and Happy Holidays!

  36. Sorry… I found the Pinterest button to pin the recipe at the bottom of the html email, but there isn’t one available on this web page? Not the link to Pinterest to follow you… I saw that up on the left nav.

  37. “Wait, really….but…but….” this was my mental process as I scrolled through your blog looking for your turkey recipe….you…don’t…have…one?

    I am hosting my friend-groups third annual Friendsgiving and am expecting about 15 people. I fought hard for the right to cook the turkey this year an now am in panic mode. I turned to my two stand-bys – Bittman and you. Bittman has a simple, clear, straight forward recipe, but I was looking for your insight which often has a little more “zing” or creativity.

    I’m trying to answer the question – to brine, or not brine. I don’t want to brine, but would like to do a rub of some sort, and then am thinking of inserting herd or herbed butter under the skin for roasting.

    Do you have a recipe and I just missed it?

  38. As someone who is never without a bag of pretzels (and who also has a big bucket of food-grade lye in the pantry), I’m in total agreement everything that deserves to be pretzeled.Your rolls look awesome! I was actually planning on makes some of my usual pretzel rolls this weekend but I think I’ll give these a whirl instead.

  39. Deb, chemist here. Lye is sodium hydroxide and you’re right that it can be corrosive and should be handled with care. Sorry to tell you, though, that it can react with glass. Perhaps not in a very bad way (no explosions), but it will make glassware cloudy. Use a plastic bowl.

  40. Melanie — Nope, you didn’t miss it. I keep promising to make a turkey, and I never do. I’m a terrible blogger! (Who basically never eats turkey outside Thanksgiving, where someone else makes it.) I do have an idea for one, though. I’ll see if I have time to fiddle this weekend.

    Marsha — At the bottom of each recipe, before the comments begin, is a “Pin” option that will open a bookmarklet that will allow you to choose any photo from the recipe to pin with. I promise, this will be easier to find one the redesign is complete. :)

    Taste — These rolls taste like Parker House Rolls — tender, rich, soft — with a pretzel-flavored finish. They’re pretzel-flavored dinner rolls, not, say, pretzel rolls baked in a pan like dinner rolls.

    Pretzel challah — Same challah recipe I always use, brushed with pretzel wash or you can make a larger batch of it (4 cups to 4 tablespoons) and gently dip the braided challah into it. It’s a little scary, but I should warn that my brushed challah came out very streaked — it might have been that I didn’t brush it throughly enough, but I won’t know until I try again.

    leah — Good to know! I have actually had a jar of the lye mixture made all week (see above: pretzel-ing bender) and don’t notice any change to the glass, but I trust you.

    hilly — Considering that pretzels originated from European monasteries in the Early Middle Ages, I suspect that the use of lye far predates modern packaging with hazard symbols on it. That said, I can’t find where I read it, but I remember reading that the idea of using a solution of an alkaline substance to change the pH of the surface of the food and improve browning may not have existed in pretzels original iteration, that came along later, but still very long ago. But, without a source to link to right now, I might be totally mis-remembering.

    beverly, re: pretzel hot dog and hamburger buns — Yes, I have a recipe right here.

    lev, re: classic pretzel knots — No, this is a Parker House Roll recipe with a pretzel finish and flavor at the edges. It would be too soft and tender (and sweeter) than a pretzel knot. You can use either this recipe or this one to make pretzel knots at home. For pretzel knots, it’s best to dip the rolls, so you’ll want to make more than the brushing-on solution stipulated here. I go through it all in the first link.

    Arthur — Sadly, I don’t know enough about it to know, but I’m hoping one of the many lurking chemists in the comments can respond and help you.

    Emily and handfulofshadows — I am so tired and ready for the weekend that I called my husband over and said “how is ‘freezed’ wrong?” before it clicked in my head. Anyway, thanks for the heads up. Now fixed. (P.S. You can use soy or almond milk and vegan butter or a neutral oil here; I’d expect it to work just fine.)

    Karen — Sadly, I couldn’t get a straight read on whether or not you could dump it down the drain with a septic system. I thought you couldn’t, but then commenters on the last post where I talked about using lye to make pretzels said that they do pour it down their septic system drains but while running the water. As a non-expert in plumbing, I do not want to be responsible for breaking anything in your home! So, I’d advise caution unless an expert steps forward here. I figured you can pour it in an old water bottle — even diluting it more first — and toss the bottle in the garbage.

    I have kept my extra lye solution in a jar (though, an earlier commenter says plastic is better) and other times in a plastic container for up to a week when I was testing a few rounds with pretzels. I’m not sure about longer. I honestly was too nervous to have it around (what with a 5 year-old, even though it was nowhere he could get to it). Lye is inexpensive; seems easier to just dump between uses, especially with such a small quantity as this.

    Gluten-free flour — I have not tried it before in rolls, so I cannot say for sure.

    Brandie — Yes, I give a few do-ahead suggestions in Comment #51 (which I need to move up to below the recipe, and will shortly). Option 2 is what you’re looking for.

    sharyn — No, but I like where you’re going with this…

  41. I am a professional baker and culinary teacher- OMG We made these today for lunch with the food grade lye etc. . . turn out fantastic. I think the only thing we missed a little was the chew or a regular pretzel- which parker house rolls should not be chewy. Anyway we made three times the batch and 6 of us ate them all. Kodos keep coming up with great ideas and recipes.

  42. i made my first pretzel item just last week, homemade pretzel dogs. i ate mine, and my husband’s, and my kid’s! haha! these have thanksgiving written all over them.

  43. In the South of Germany, their heartland, fresh-baked (lye-dipped) pretzels are sliced horizontally, spread with sweet butter and chopped chives.

  44. I’ve made two batches of these rolls today for a dinner party tonight (along with your raspberry swirl cheesecake for dessert) but I mostly just want to thank you for including oven temperatures in Celsius – it saves me so much time Googling!

    Now for the gushing – every recipe I have ever tried from your blog turns out perfectly – and believe me, I’ve tried plenty. I’ve built up a reputation amongst friends as a fantastic baker when in reality it’s entirely down to your foolproof recipes! My boyfriend even asks if what I’m making is from smitten kitchen beforehand to give his nod of approval :) I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before but your blog is wonderful and has given me the confidence to get in the kitchen and try my hand at anything – thank you!

  45. Here’s an idea: pretzel stuffing. Just the right amount of salt and this bread would probably be perfect for the toasting and then braising and then stuffing (my mouth, of course!)

  46. If I make these ahead using option #2, could I brush them with the lye and egg before refrigerating? Or does that need to be done right before baking? Like Brandie, I’m thinking ahead to Thanksgiving and I’d love to get the lye step out of the way before the kitchen gets crowded.

  47. I really love the way these turned out. But I don’t think the ones I will try to make will come out like this.THese rolls are to die, good jobs on such a wonderful looking rolls.

  48. Should I tell you that you can buy all kinds of “pretzel salt” at Kalustyan’s? No, I think I’ll hold that one back so that you don’t quit your life to become a FT pretzel maker. These look gorgeous Deb! Thanks for pushing inspiration further and further!

  49. p.s when I was in the habit of making hundreds of PHR, I made the dough on day one. rolled all the dough on day two, and proofed & baked them off for the next 3 days. If a refrigerator is cold enough it will not overproof the dough in those days… ;[]

  50. Off topic but I’m looking for some good quality baking sheets. The link in your ”Build your own smitten kitchen” Gift guide is broken. What do you use these days?

  51. I made these yesterday and they were AMAZING. (I’m using past tense because they’re all gone now) :). I’m hosting friendsgiving this year and these rolls have been requested. They’re so good that I’m making a batch for my sister to take home with her tomorrow. This was my first time making dinner rolls. Thanks, Deb!

  52. Those rolls really look delicious!
    And for me, being born in Bavaria but having lived away from home for years now, just seeing something that looks like a “Bayerische Brezel” makes me feel homey.
    Isa

  53. Deb: any advice if using a sourdough starter for these? Should I? I plan to use my leftover devilish maple cream cheese spread from your Carrot Olive Oil Bread on these babies. Also, no shame in onion goggles – they really do work great if you have extremely sensitive eyes!

  54. Emily- re. sheet pans. I’m a fan of Chicago Metallic, but every year about this time Sur La Table does like 20 or 30 percent off their own bakeware, which is great for stocking up on a few missing items for relatively little $$. Their sheet pans are also pretty good. Chicago Metallic is my absolute favorite though, honestly for nostalgia and more out of habit, than anything (my mom used them growing up, and that’s what I learned to bake with).

  55. Deb, I love your site. I am relatively new here, and I’m finding that I can’t go to the grocery store without planning at least one of your recipes first. So thank you.

  56. Was too eager to wait for food grade lye from Amazon, so I found 100% lye crystals (Rooto brand) for drain cleaning at hardware store. Checked MSDS online, confirmed is 100% NaOH and used that. I figure the difference between that and food grade is possible trace chemicals and production methods and so I was okay taking the risk and using for such a small quantity washed on rolls. They came out beautifully and taste great!

  57. I just made these. I’ve been testing out different roll recipes for a few weeks to find the perfect ones for Thanksgiving, and these are keepers. They are soft and chewy and pretzel-y and perfect. Bonus; my entire house smells like pretzels.

  58. I just made these with the soda solution. They are delicious (I may have eaten four with blueberry preserves…) but they didn’t double in either allotted hour* and the soda and egg washes ended up pooled in between each roll in a kind of metallic-salty goo. Easily scraped off, and didn’t affect the taste of the rolls, but kind of off. So. Lesson learned: always let them rise!

    *Pretty sure this is because I had to leave the yeast mixture for 45 minutes instead of 10. Not really avoidable.

  59. Deb – I made these rolls tonight and they’re absolutely delicious. However, I’m wondering if there’s a good substitute for the butter (vegetable oil, etc). Thanks!

  60. 9 year old was the hit of dinner for helping make these (even with his sister). Everyone agrees they will replace our rolls on thanksgiving. Next time double batch… not a scrap left… thanks!

  61. I made these with the baking soda (I toasted baking soda in the oven over an hour; it stayed white. Is that correct?) It was a brand new container of baking soda. When I mixed it into the boiling water, nothing foamed up.

    I forged ahead .. they taste ok but the solution pooled underneath and made the bottoms dark. (I also did the egg wash.) What’s up?

  62. These are in the oven right now, and I admit I’m a bit nervous. Was I supposed to brush the entire amount of baking soda solution over the rolls, or just until they seemed pretty wet and gooey?

  63. This recipe is perfect! I just made them, they are cooling right now, so technically I haven’t even tasted them yet, but I can tell from how they look and how the whole house smells that they are delicious! Thanks, Deb!

  64. keren — That sounds amazing.

    ila — Basically one more reason I need to live in southern Germany.

    Susan — I used an 8×8 gold touch pan from Williams-Sonoma. I’ve been very happy with the ones I’ve purchased.

    Kris — No need to brush the whole amount. Just get the rolls good and coated. Did they bake up wet and gooey?

    kathy — Sorry they didn’t work out as expected. I’m not sure why the baking soda wouldn’t foam up (although, it doesn’t have to, it was more of a warning so you know it’s coming; it’s never not happened for me, though) unless yours was old. Regardless, if the tops became pretzel-y, it did it’s job. Did you brush all of it on? Only enough to coat them well (as I say to Kris, above) was needed. I hope that wasn’t unclear.

    Sophia — PHR are traditionally made with butter, but there’s no reason you can’t use a neutral oil or olive oil, if you’d prefer.

  65. Baking Soda was from a brand new big bag from Costco; I’m sure there’s good turnover there. No foaming. Could it have been because I’d baked the baking soda in the oven? Since I did a double recipe, I doubled the baking soda and water. When I painted on, it dripped down so bottoms became a swirly brown. There was A LOT left. They tasted OK but of course, did not look brown like yours since I did not use lye. I posted a photo on Chowhound.com and someone else who used your recipe and lye posted also. Take a look:http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/995940

    1. kathy — I think they look great. As I showed here, you definitely get less color from the baking soda version — and I hadn’t even mentioned the baked baking soda this time from McGee because I had mentioned it as an option the last time I wrote about pretzels, but it seemed like commenters didn’t feel it was a great improvement over unbaked baking soda for all the extra work; although, just to make this more confusing, in earlier comments on this post, some people felt it was worthwhile. I digress. Was there any kind of recognizable pretzel flavor? I know the color isn’t as deep, but the flavor should be there. And thanks for sharing it on Chowhound; I love the discussions over there (even when people aren’t happy with my recipes!).

  66. Dashed home and made a batch of pretzel scones using my go to scones recipe. Sounded inspired, was disappointing. Responses from home were; “Why?” and “What happened to the scones,” and “Give the rest to the chickens.”

  67. I’m bookmarking this recipe; I’m always looking for different ways to use up buttermilk/sour milk (which I seem to have an endless supply of in my fridge :) ).

    1. terri — AHEM. I am 99.9% certain that “pretzel wash” is totally lye. I do not have it in me, however, to make homemade croissants — maybe I’ll change my mind in the future? It’s just such an insane amount of work and they’re not great on day 2. I leave it to the pros. :)

      KO — Funny. Well, I didn’t say they were ready for prime time, heh, but the babysitter/husband/kid did like them! I found the pretzel flavor a little clashy with the scones. It might be better on a biscuit…

  68. This looks amazing again.. love your website and about to purchase your book. But I am not sure if the Bookdepository version is Metric.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ling — Thank you. So, both versions — the US and the UK editions of the book — have metrics/weights, but the UK version is more thorough. Looks like the Book Depository sells both; the UK edition has the pink cookies on the cover. Hope that helps.

  69. Hi There,

    This looks great! I envision pretzel rolls with hot cheese dipping sauce at our annual Christmas Party. Wondering if the dough recipe could also be prepared in a breadmaker? Would it still turn out? Has anyone tried it that way? Thanks!

  70. Hey, Deb

    To save the drainage of our house, how else would you dispose of the lye solution? I don’t want it to corrode the weak spots. :(

    1. Kim — Are you not able to use drain opener? Because this is much, much, much more mild than drain opener. If that’s safe, this definitely is.

  71. I’m looking forward to trying these for Thanksgiving. I was trying to figure out the best way to make the rolls into balls based on your post. Do you roll up the wedges then pinch the bottoms somehow? Any advice, Deb?

    1. Katie — I do, and I so wish I had someone in the kitchen with me who could take a quick video of how I do it. It’s not complicated, but it’s harder to tell than show. But I’ll try: basically, you’ve got the round-ish shape of dough on the counter and you put your hands down around it. Then, use the sides of your hands to pull down and stretch the top of the round taut while turning it. The “pinches” go under so they’re not seen and the top forms a nice tight round. I use this for large round loaves of bread too.

  72. I made these– fantastic! Thank you so much, Deb! I will never, every buy rolls ever again. I could not stop eating them! I am going to make some more soon with a bit of whole wheat flour so I won’t feel so guilty with every delicious mouthful!

  73. I used 3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour and the rest AP. They are baking now, but they barely rose at all (I know its not a yeast problem). Its such a disappointment when you show up the first rise and can’t tell the difference. Hopefully the taste makes up for it.

  74. I’m super excited to make these for Friendsgiving this weekend! Curious, if I bake my baking soda as Harold McGee suggested, should I still dissolve in boiling water, or rather use room temp water? (And thanks for all the amazing delicious posts, Deb!)

  75. I just made a pre-Thanksgiving test batch and I am sold! Delish and super-easy. Our pan of 16 rolls is sadly now down to 5 and they’ve been out of the oven for less than 20 minutes (don’t judge!). My head is spinning thinking of all the other things I can pretzel! Thank you!

  76. Does anyone know if I can make these without the pretzel treatment? I’m looking for a reliable roll recipe for thanksgiving (I always have a hard time with yeast bread recipes). Thanks!

  77. I have been following this blog for years now and you hit it out of the park every time. I made these last weekend and they lasted 2 days… I am making a double or a triple batch on thursday!

  78. Hi Deb – wondering why the option of AP flour, bread flour, or a mix of both? Any thoughts on how the extra protein of bread flour would affect the finished roll? I have both in my cupboard and am trying to decide which to use. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kelly — I’d trust it for 24 in the fridge but not 48. You’d probably want to use a little less yeast for a longer than 24 hour rise. Happy baking!

  79. Deb, I’m halfway through making the recipe (I’d been eyeing them since they were published…) and am hoping to bake some tonight and some tomorrow. Any problem if I make the baking soda/water solution tonight and stick it in the fridge overnight for the next batch? Thanks!

    1. Julie — I haven’t tried it with the baking soda solution, but I definitely have with the lye one and it works fine. Not sure it needs to be chilled, but for the baking soda, you’ll want to rewarm it. Good luck!

  80. Hi Deb!
    These look great! For do ahead option #2, do you do the baking soda wash before or after the rolls hang out in the fridge overnight? Thanks!

  81. Kathleen — Er, a sponge? I don’t do anything special. I’m not a huge germaphobe unless there’s recently been raw meat on it, then I go a little nuts cleaning it twice. I mean, I want everything clean but the counter is only used for food and the food will be cooked at a high temperature.

    Kathleen — I use whole. You should be fine with any kind here, although some fat is better than no fat, for flavor.

  82. If I bake these the day before I want to serve them, should I still freeze them or let them hang out in the fridge? And would you keep them in the pan or put them in a plastic bag? I know these questions are a little silly, but I’m new to baking breads.

    1. viviana — I’d do the second rise IN the fridge and then take them out 30 to 60 minutes before so they warm up a bit and finish proofing before baking.

  83. Hi,

    Did a test run of these last night before doing another batch today and had a few questions if you’re still checking the site on the holiday.

    Texture and such was great but the brown color from the lye was very spotty, not looking like yours. Wondering if the egg wash diluted the lye somehow? Would it be better to just do the lye wash and not the egg?

    Also, used 100% bread flour as that’s what I had on hand. Any thoughts on whether this could have affected the color and if I’d be better off doing 50/50?

    Thanks!

  84. Wonderful recipe. They came out beautiful – and are cooling now. I wish I didn’t have to wait a few hours to try them. I did end up needing about 1/2 cup extra flour – else the dough was more like waffle batter than a dough. Even with the extra, it was plenty sticky.

  85. I made these with the baking soda wash, and they weren’t pretzel tasting at all. BUT I topped them with everything bagel topping (Fairway’s baking department gave me nearly a pound when I inquired about buying some) and they were out of this world. It’s my new favorite bread topping. I’m imaging sandwich buns… And challah…

  86. I made these with the baking soda wash and they turned out great! The pretzel top was not as thick as with a regular pretzel, but it still tasted good. The rolls turned a really nice golden brown. Eating them now (second day) with some cheese and mustard. So good.

  87. I cannot thank you enough for this recipe. Pretzels are a very old family tradition for me, but the lye has always scared me off from making them. Now that I have a daughter, though, I wanted to incorporate something ancestral in our Thanksgiving dinner. I made these and they were amazing!

    I plan to make them every year now!

    One question I had for you — could this recipe be done with whole wheat flour?

    1. Sara — I’ve done a half-swap with white whole wheat flour and a 1/3 swap with regular whole wheat flour and both were great. You can go higher in proportion, but you lose a little in tender texture.

  88. Deb, I used the DIY lye recipe from Harold McGee via Splendid table and it worked perfectly. It imparted a wonderful burnished shade of brown and noticeable pretzel flavor. My rolls achieved the same color as yours that received the lye treatment. You should definitely give it a try; it will not be a wasted effort.

  89. I made these for Thanksgiving. I doubled the recipe and pretzelized only one batch. I ‘baked’ the baking soda for about about 2 hours at (I learned that from another pretzel recipe in the 1/27/13 SF Chronicle) and the tops came out nice and dark. Another keeper!

  90. Amazing recipe! I made these for Thanksgiving and felt compelled to leave a note of thanks…Even though I do a ton of baking (cookies, bars, cakes) I don’t have a lot of experience making yeast based bread items so I was a bit panicked that I would mess these up somehow- but they turned out beautifully. I was thrilled. You were completely right- they are ‘easy to make and hard to mess up’. I used the baking soda method and they came out perfectly pretzel-ly. In fact, they were almost gone before the actual dinner took place and my husband now thinks that he can request them at least once a week. Another parker house pretzel roll monster has been created!

  91. Deb, absolutely magnificent. Thank you so much for this lovely inspiration, your careful testing and detailed notes. I was going to buy rolls this year — for both Thanksgiving feasts I was part of — I KNOW! But I have had too many batches in the past that don’t rise or don’t turn out and the extra stress just didn’t feel worth it. I’m so glad I decided to start these at 10pm and bake them off the next morning…. they KIND OF made me a rock star at the table! My own mother declared herself out of the roll business! Not a single one was left. For the next feast I made another (double) batch. Epic win!! So, so tender, so soft, so tasty and brown. And easy enough for ME! xoxo

  92. I’ve made these twice now, both with baking soda and both doubled. They’re really. really great. It’s nice to have rolls that hold their own without needing to be buttered! I also didn’t have a stand mixer/bread hook so I did it manually and it really wasn’t that bad. I will say that mine look quite different from the photos, partially due to the lack of lye and partially due to prominent scoring and very square-like shapes. I would love to try the lye but don’t trust my Czech translation skills as that’s where I am, much too risky. Thanks for another great one Deb!

  93. And yet another wonderful looking delight from you. Pretzels are a favorite of mine. These look like a perfect appetizer to serve with maybe a beer-cheese, horseradish-bacon or buffalo chicken dip and a sparkling beverage for the holidays- I will buy Lye for the first time- just to try these.

  94. So am I the only person who had problems with the dough before the first rise? I dont have a bread machine/stand mixer and by hand the dough was so runny it was akin to trying to knead soup rather than dough. I think about a half cup of flour layer I was able to knead it. Anyone else have this issue or know of a way around it without adding too much flour? I had the same problem attempting to make a boule a while back. Tell me what I’m doing wrong please! I love making bread!

  95. Hey! I have been trying to make this recipe, it looks magnificent. However the yeast are not responding at all like you said they would…. is there any basic error that I should avoid? or any reason why it is happening?

    cheers !

  96. Hi Deb! Wondering if you think these would be good with buttermilk instead of regular milk. I’ve made buttermilk parker house rolls before, which I loved, but am worried about that interfering with the pretzel flavor?

    1. Jenni — I wouldn’t worry about it; I think buttermilk could be great here. Plus, these are more Parker-House-rolls-with-a-hint-of-pretzel than pretzels shaped like Parker House rolls. I hope that makes sense.

  97. I have spent countless hours obsessing about the perfect soft, traditional dinner roll for holiday meals. Un-pretzeled, are these a contender and would I just skip the Pretzel-it step? Brush with some butter or egg wash instead? My arsenal is missing a PHR recipe!

    1. Lou Ann — These will be great even without the pretzeling. Instead, brush them with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Top with any seeds or sea salt flakes you like, or nothing at all.

  98. these look AMAZING…i can’t wait to try these! my favorite part of your blog is that you link all of your old posts from years ago. great way to index your content. i’m so glad i found your blog; i’m looking to start putting more recipes on mine!

  99. I had the same problem as Vanessa (189), the dough was super runny in my stand up mixer, and even with adding several extra tablespoons of flour it still remained really sticky. The end result was that the dough didn’t rise & the rolls ended up being pretty solid. I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong because my husband loves pretzels.

  100. Just made these in my 8″ Pyrex. Super overcrowded and smushed together looking. They look and smell fab though! Anyone else have this problem?next time I’ll make in a 9″ pan

  101. I made these yesterday. The dough was very sticky and at first I didn’t think the dough hook in my Kitchenaid was really kneading it properly, but I got two nice rises out of the dough. For the pretzeling, I used about 1/3 cup of baked baking soda dissolved in water and an egg wash and got great color and taste. These rolls were much lighter than the light brioche buns on your site, although those had better flavor.

  102. THAnk you for this recipie!
    I wonder how using instant yeast instead of active dry yeast would affect the recepie? Should I skip melting it in milk with sugar?
    I would appreciate your reply.
    Thank you!

  103. It would work. You will not need to warm the liquid; you can add instant yeast right in with the flour. However, I do find that instant yeast takes often twice the amount of time (if not slightly more) than active dry does to double the first time, just to give you a heads up.

  104. Hi, do you think these could be made ahead. By that I mean I would like to form the rolls, dip the whole roll in the lye solution, place them in the pan and put in the fridge overnight. Take them out the next day to proof, then salt and bake them. I do not know if the dipping would do something to the outside of the bun that would prevent it from proofing, like forming a skin or something. Thank you for your help.

  105. I made these and they were absolutely wonderful! I looked down after I pulled them out of the oven and buttered them and half of them were gone…and I was the only one in the house, now where could they have gone… :)

  106. Wonderful recipe – very easy to follow and the rolls are delicious! I’ll have to give the pretzel challah a try soon, too. Thank you Deb!

  107. I’ve always been a bit afraid of making home-made rolls, but these delivered – they puffed up beautifully, were light and buttery, and took on a great color. For some reason I couldn’t get them 100% uniform – it might have been because the only plan available was a cake round? Anyways, we used this as our “bun” for a simple Bobby Flay hamburger recipe and made a chipotle – goat cheese spread for the “cheese” element. Great stuff. Thanks again for the recipe!

  108. I saw this recipe and thought it would make great hamburger buns just made them I made into 5 balls and flattened them to make into burger buns and let rise and the came out perfect sent a picture to hubby he raced home from work to get one and on way back to work he called me and kept saying how good they were while eating can’t wait for dinner now to make my burgers

  109. What are your thoughts/opinions/guidelines on freezing these rolls?

    Trying them out for Canadian Thanksgiving with my in laws… must impress!

  110. Hi, Deb!
    I followed the link back here from your cider sangria post. I’ve got the dough rising already! Looking forward to trying these once I realized I didn’t need lye to make them.

    Is part of Brooklyn called Williamsburg? I’m confused by that mention of “the Williamsburg location of Brooklyn Kitchen” – I was thinking “Oh, maybe I can pick up some lye when I drive across Virginia for Thanksgiving” but the only store location I can find is actually in New York. I know there are other Williamsburgs besides the historical one in my home state, but I never heard of it as a borough of New York.

    Thanks for linking to the other post regarding kneading sticky dough. I don’t know if my instincts to avoid waste will ever come to terms with letting dough stick to my hands/the counter, so I keep adding flour, but I did try to add less today, kneading and turning as quickly as I could until eventually the dough started sticking again even in that brief moment of contact before dusting the counter again with flour… How do you physically knead if you’re constantly scraping the dough off the counter to turn it? I imagine there’s some sweet spot that I never quite hit.

    1. Lily — Ha, that is really confusing. Williamsburg is a part of Brooklyn, but Brooklyn Kitchen is a store in Williamsburg that has an outpost on the west side of Manhattan (or at least did; I haven’t checked in forever). As for kneading, just work quickly, keep it moving. I use a dough scraper all the time (also great for cleaning up counters), so if it does stick a little, I just scrape it off and get back to kneading.

  111. OK. Thanks for writing back, Deb! I will be brave and give that a try next time. I do have a dough scraper, but no practice using it during kneading, mostly just to cut dough into pieces after kneading and to help clean up when I’m done. Time to grow new skills! Also, a belated congratulations on your little girl <3

  112. I just made these with the baking soda wash. They turned out beautiful and taste delicious. I am going to make these on Thanksgiving. I have the food grade lye but I didn’t use it because I only have the Wilton cake pans that are made of aluminum. What brand of pan did you use in this picture? Are there any pans you can recommend I use with lye? Thank you.

  113. Kathy — Lye can corrode reactive metals, so aluminum is an issue, but most baking pans with aluminum are coated in something else. I’m using a W-S gold touch pan which is aluminized steel coated in a nonstick layer. You’d want to use something coated or something nonreactive (straight stainless steel shouldn’t be).

  114. Made these for our Thanksgiving Day meal, and I’m sorry to say they were a big disappointment. No one cared for them. They were just tasteless lumps of mushy bread, with nothing about them, either in flavor or texture, that was remotely pretzel-ish (I used the baking soda wash). And so much effort for so little result! Maybe for my family Parker House rolls are just too much of a bland 1950’s thing that can’t compete with all the interesting bread options that are available now. But this is my first Smitten Kitchen fail, so I can’t be too upset.

  115. I made these yesterday and they’re really really good. I did the baking soda option and they were pretzly tasting but in a subtle way. I used all bread flour with great results. Also, I always use SAF instant yeast and everything goes into the mixing bowl of the stand mixer at one time – no yeast dissolving. Saves bowls and time.

  116. These are fantastic! I’ve loved your pretzels for years, but just tried these this week. We’ve had them twice in three days! Super simple and tasty.

  117. I read that if one bakes the baking soda in the oven to heighten alkalinity, the results will be the same as using the food grade lye. Have not tried this myself.

  118. Hi Deb, I have made these a few times and they are delicious! Unfortunately each time I use lye, it melts the bristles on my pastry brush even with rinsing in soapy water immediately after use. I’m using a standard bristled 1” flat brush. Do you have a special type of pastry brush you use? Thanks!

    1. Molly — I use this brush and haven’t had a problem. I can’t figure out why it would melt the bristles of yours; even if they were plastic, it shouldn’t corrode plastic, just glass and/or reactive metals.