Have you noticed the commercials from both Wendy’s and Sonic touting their new pretzel buns? Wendy’s is promoting a pretzel bun cheeseburger while Sonic is peddling a hotdog in a pretzel bun.
I see those commercials and think to myself, “Self, those look good.” Have you noticed? In the world of fast food, they look really tasty. Something different. So I decided, “What the heck, Cheap Bastid can do that.”
A year or so ago I baked up some soft pretzels, so I know that I can make them. It’s a bit of a process though. Is it worth it? Well, the writer of “Fifty Shades of Gray” might describe the way Mrs. CB reacted to them as “the throes of ecstasy”. And yeah, it takes a couple of hours but these are a taste treat, especially since I was going to cook something a bit more substantial than hot dogs—Italian sausages.
Now making soft pretzels is the same as making basic bread with the addition of one step that adds about 5 minutes to the process. The way to get the color, texture and flavor is to parboil the formed rolls for a minute or 2 in water and baking soda. (Purists use food-grade lye).
Like anything else you bake, you’re going to want to do this recipe 2 or 3 times in order to “get it down”. Baking, especially with yeast dough, has a lot to do with trial and error even with a recipe.
And, of course you can make these either as hot-dog or hamburger shaped buns simply by altering the shape of your dough when you form your bun. This recipe makes a half dozen of either shape. These tend to flatten out a bit so make sure you build plenty of height when you roll these to your final shape.
Recipe: Pretzel Buns
Summary: Here’s a way to get the incredible flavor and texture of pretzel buns at home. It’s easy and it’s cheap and tastes terrific!
- 2 ½ cups flour (plus more for dusting)
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp melted margarine or butter or canola oil
- Cooking spray
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 2 tbsp melted margarine or butter
- 1 tbsp Kosher or sea salt
- Take out your bread board, a large bowl, a small bowl, baking sheet, foil or a silicone baking mat and a big spoon. Take out a large sauce pan too—one that will hold about a half gallon of water.
- Put the yeast in the small bowl and add a bit of the sugar. Then add the warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Put the flour, sugar and salt into the big bowl. Stir it together to combine the ingredients. Add the water and yeast mixture and the 2 tbsp margarine, butter or oil.
- Stir, stir, stir until everything is combined (this won’t be a shaggy dough—if you want it a bit wetter, add a couple tablespoons of water).
- Dust the bread board with flour and put the dough on it. Knead for 5 minutes or so until it’s elastic and smooth.
- Form the dough into a ball. Spray the interior of the bowl with cooking spray or drizzle a bit of oil in it and smear it around. Put the dough in the bowl, rub it around gently, flip it and rub a bit more to get a bit of oil all over.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 30-40 minutes until it has doubled in size. (I turn my oven to 500 for 1 minute, then turn it off and put the bowl inside)
- After it rises flour your bread board, punch down the dough and turn it out onto the surface. Knead it a minute or 2 until it’s smooth and springs back when you poke it.
- Divide the dough into 6 equal size pieces and form your rolls (round and mounded for hamburgers or about 5” long for hot dogs or brats.
- Place the rolls on a baking sheet (lined with foil or silicone mat). Cut 3 diagonal slashes across the top of brat buns or and “X” across the top of hamburger buns using a serrated knife like a steak knife (draw it across once about 1/8” deep).
- Cover with damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled about 20 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 425.
- Turn stove burner to high, add 8 cups water to the pan and bring to a bowl. When it boils, add the baking soda (careful the water is going to fizz up immediately).
- (Cheap Bastid apologizes for getting too busy to take photos of this part of the process)
- Gently lay 2 rolls at a time into the bubbling pan. At about 45 seconds to 1 minute, flip the rolls over for another 45-60 seconds. Remove and put them back on the baking sheet.
- Add rolls 2 at a time until all are ready.
- Sprinkle lightly with the kosher/sea salt.
- Put into oven at 425 for 12-15 minutes.
- When done—they should be a “mid brown” color—remove from the oven and immediately paint them with the melted butter/margarine using a silicone brush.
- When ready to serve, slice the rolls with a serrated bread knife and enjoy a whole new taste sensation with your favorite hot dog, sausage or burger.
Preparation time: 1 hour(s) 15 minute(s)
Cooking time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
Now, even though these instructions are long and drawn out, this isn’t brain surgery. As I mentioned before, there’s really only one additional step and that’s the par-boiling in the water & baking soda mix.
But, oh man, the texture these brought to Italian sausages. It was fantastic. The flavor and chewiness of the pretzel bun combined with the meatiness and hint of heat in the spicy sausage was incredible. Now wonder Mrs. CB was giving off with a near-orgasmic “Oh, oh, oh” as she bit into the pretzel bun and sausage.
And if you want to make baked pretzel sticks, just roll these into 1” diameter logs that are about 6” long. Or to make pretzels, roll them longer (about 16”) and thinner, about ½ inch and then do a pretzel twist.
The Cheap Bastid Test: OK, here’s the deal, these take a couple of hours start to finish. If you were to go to a bakery they would set you back $1-$1.50 apiece. I made them for about $.75 in ingredients. I wouldn’t necessarily make them all the time—but for a special occasion like company coming over or an evening with my bride, yeah it’s worth it. And besides, it’s a lot cheaper than the $5 or so you’ll spend at Sonic or Wendy’s. They make good commercials but you can make great pretzel buns at home!
That’s the Cheap Bastid Way: Eat Good. Eat Cheap. Be Grateful!