These honey beer pretzels are made with bread flour, German Pilsner beer, and touch of honey for sweetness. It’s got bite, chew, and a lot of flavor!
Pretzels are believed to have originated during the Middle Ages. Supposedly, monks shaped them to look like hands in prayer. Some further claim that the three holes in a shaped pretzel refer to the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Despite the many tales about their beginnings, we can all agree that pretzels are delicious.
Alex and I plan to visit Germany next autumn, where I plan to eat a ton of authentic Bavarian pretzel, sausage, and beer. Until then, I’m going to experiment making homemade pretzels. This recipe came about after we bought some German beer at Trader Joe’s. We’re suckers for the new item section at TJ’s. (I have to try everything!) We bought a pack of German Pilsner and unfortunately, didn’t like it too much. I took that beer and started playing in the kitchen. And, these honey beer pretzels were born!
How do pretzels get their distinctive golden color?
Traditionally shaped pretzel dough is first dipped in lye and then baked in the oven. Lye (also known as caustic soda or sodium hydroxide) is an alkali (meaning it has a pH greater than 7). Lye water gives German-style pretzels their iconic color, sheen, and crust. Asides from pretzels, lye is also used to make bagels, Chinese moon cakes, and a few Filipino desserts. Since lye can burn the skin and it can be difficult to find food grade lye, baking soda is often used in its place.
Baking soda has similar properties as lye, thus producing that same golden sheen. The shaped pretzel dough gets a quick bath in a boiling baking soda-water solution and then baked in the oven. Baking soda is a much safer and readily available alternative.
These honey beer pretzels are best enjoyed the day they’re made. Serve them with mustard, beer cheese, or my personal favorite: vegan chipotle cashew cheese!
I used a light colored German Pilsner, but any light or amber colored beer should work in this recipe. (If you have a darker beer, you should try out this stout bread loaf). If you’d rather not use beer, simply substitute the same amount of water.
To me, the mark of a good pretzel is the crusty bottom. That’s my favorite part. Be sure to place the boiled pretzels on a greased baking sheet. This will ensure that nice crust forms on the bottom. It will also aid in the removal of the pretzels from the baking sheet.
I grew up eating a ton of Auntie Anne’s and Wetzel’s Pretzels. I hope to recreate some of their famous flavor combos. The almond crunch from Wetzel’s is my weakness. What’s your favorite one?
Honey Beer Pretzels
Yield: makes 12 pretzels
- 1/4 cup warm water, heated to 110 degrees F
- 1 1/2 cup wheat beer, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup baking soda
Whisk together water, beer, yeast, and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow to sit for 5-7 minutes to activate yeast.
Attach dough hook to stand mixer. Add bread flour and salt. Mix on low speed until dough starts to come together. Add melted butter. Increase speed to medium and continue to mix for 3-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
Transfer dough to a large greased bowl. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature for one hour, or until doubled in volume.
Punch dough down to remove air bubbles. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Pat and stretch dough to a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 6 inches tall. Using a dough scraper, pizza wheel cutter, or knife cut dough into 12 strips (1-inch wide x 6-inches tall). Loosely cover dough with plastic wrap.
Working with one strip at a time, stretch and roll strip until about 20-inches long. Shape into a "U" or horseshoe. Cross the two ends over each other twice, leaving a circle at the other end. Take the ends and secure to the bottom of the circle. Place formed pretzel on a lightly floured baking sheet. Keep covered while you repeat with remaining strips of dough. (See notes for recommended pretzel shaping video)
Allow shaped pretzels to rest for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F and prepare boiling mixture. In a large heavy bottomed sauce pot (dutch ovens work best), combined water and baking soda. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil.
Grease two baking sheets with cooking spray or butter and set aside. Once mixture is boiling, place 2-3 pretzels seam side down into liquid. Boil each side for 20 seconds. Strain and place pretzels seam side up onto prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzel dough.
Once all the pretzels have been boiled, generously sprinkle pretzels with coarse salt. Bake for 18-20 minutes until pretzels are golden brown all over. Remove from oven and allow to sit in pan for 3 minutes. Transfer pretzels to a wire rack to cool. Enjoy pretzels warm with mustard, beer cheese, or desired accouterments.
- Watch this pretzel shaping video for additional guidance
- I used a German pilsner beer known for it's nutty and honey flavors. Any light or amber colored beer will work for this recipe.
- If you don't want to use beer, simply substitute the same amount of water.