Homemade Pretzel Bread Loaf

This Homemade Pretzel Bread Loaf wishes it could be your favorite soft pretzel. That’s because this pretzel bread recipe makes a soft, flavorful white bread that’s slightly sweet and topped with coarse salt. Spread on a bit of mustard, and it’s perfect for turkey sandwiches.

Read on for all the tips and tricks for making pretzel bread. Or just go find your coarse salt, hit that Jump to Recipe button, and let’s make a pretzel bread loaf!

a sliced loaf of pretzel bread on a cutting board with a bread knife.
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Ingredients

flour, yeast, malt syrup, honey, and other bread ingredients on a countertop.

About barley malt syrup

This pretzel bread sandwich loaf recipe was created for the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge, week 46: alternative sweeteners. Instead of sugar, it uses a combination of honey and barley malt syrup to give it that classic pretzel flavor and color.

 

Barley malt syrup is an unrefined sweetener made from barley that’s also used in making bagels. It’s a thick, brown liquid with the consistency of molasses. This is the one I use, but you can find it in many grocery stores.

What makes pretzel bread different?

Pretzels and pretzel bread are similar to your average bread recipe in a few ways. They’re all yeasted bread doughs. Soft pretzels and pretzel breads are sweetened, just like a honey wheat bread. But it’s the treatment after the rises that makes pretzel bread different.

Pretzels and pretzel bread get their deep brown color from a soak in food-grade lye or a baking soda water bath. These alkaline solutions intensify the chemical reaction on the surface of the pretzel bread as it bakes, leaving a deep brown color.

It’s easier and safer when making homemade pretzel bread to use a baking soda bath and egg wash for color. If you are comfortable with using food-grade lye, you can get even more pretzel flavor. Just shape the loaf, soak it in the lye bath, and then let it do its final rise on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

free-standing loaf of pretzel bread made with lye and cut into three slices.

Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.

Variations and substitutions

  • If you don’t have barley malt syrup, you can use an extra tablespoon of honey or just omit the syrup. Your bread will still be soft and delicious.
  • Instead of powdered milk, reduce the water by one half cup and use a half cup of scalded milk instead. Scalding the milk breaks down the proteins in the milk that might prevent strong gluten formation in your bread.

Recipe tips and tricks

Making homemade bread

  • You can control how quickly your bread rises and the bread’s flavor by changing the amount of yeast you use. Use less yeast and longer, even overnight rises, when you need more flavor development. You can use more yeast and shorter rise times if your bread’s flavor comes from herbs, cheese, or other additions.
  • The best temperature for bread rising is about 80 degrees Fahrenheit in a draft-free location. If your kitchen is cool, you can create a happy space for your bread in your oven, or heat a cup of water in your microwave for a minute or so.
  • Most homemade breads should be baked until the internal temperature is 185 to 190 degrees. The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when thumped.
  • As hard as it is to wait, let your bread cool for at least an hour before you slice into it so it finishes cooking and setting up its structure.

Step by step: how to make pretzel bread

This sandwich loaf uses a sponge starter method before two rises. Mix a small amount of yeast and flour with the warm water, honey, and malt syrup. Then leave the sponge until it starts to bubble through the flour on top.

two panels showing the pretzel bread loaf sponge.

Mix the sponge with the rest of the pretzel bread ingredients, knead it, and leave the pretzel bread dough for its first rise in the mixing bowl.

two panels showing the pretzel bread first rise in the mixing bowl.

After the first rise, shape the pretzel bread loaf, dip it in the baking soda mixture, and let it rise in the loaf pan for the final rise.

(Here’s a video from King Arthur Baking showing how to shape a sandwich loaf.)

Once it has risen about an inch or more above the pan, brush the pretzel loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle it liberally with coarse salt. Try not to get the wash on the edge of the pan, or your bread may stick.

the unrisen pretzel bread loaf in the loaf pan.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the internal temperature of the loaf is 185 to 190°F. The crust should be a beautiful deep brown and the bottom of the pretzel bread will give a hollow sound when you thump it. Let cool at least an hour!

How to serve this pretzel bread loaf

Recipe FAQs

Why do you use a baking soda bath for the pretzel bread?

Food-grade lye is traditionally used to give color to pretzels, but it is caustic and can cause burns if you get it on your skin. The baking soda wash gives this bread the deep brown crust in a safer manner for the average baker.

How do I store this bread?

Store your homemade pretzel bread in an airtight container on the countertop for a few days, although the salt may start to dissolve into the bread over time. For longer storage, slice the loaf and freeze it in a freezer bag for three to six months. Don’t store your pretzel bread in the refrigerator, or it will dry out. To defrost frozen pretzel bread, just pop it in the toaster or let it come to room temperature as needed.

Can I make these as pretzel rolls instead of a bread loaf?

Yes, you can use this recipe pretzel bread rolls. Simply divide the dough into eight equal portions and shape them into rolls. Dip them into the baking soda bath, let them rise again, and bake for 16 to 18 minutes.

The inspiration

Inspiration for this pretzel bread sandwich loaf comes from the Test Kitchen Kids Pretzel Rolls. The pretzel buns are super easy to make and sturdy enough to hold up to your favorite burger, whether that’s a cheese burger, duck burger, black bean burger, or veggie cauliflower burger.

four pretzel rolls on a cooling rack.

Check out other breads for sandwiches from the Ugly Duckling Bakery bread archives like:

Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.

Recipe

Pretzel Bread Loaf

5 from 2 votes
Category: Bread
Cuisine: Unspecified
Total Time: 8 hours
Servings: 16 slices
Calories: 158kcal
This homemade pretzel bread loaf won't fool you into thinking it's a pretzel. But it is perfect for deli sandwiches with just a smidge of mustard.
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Equipment

  • 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 1 cup (125 grams or 4.4 ounces) bread flour
  • ¼ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
  • cup (283 fluid milliliters or 10 ounces) warm water plus additional, as needed

Pretzel bread

  • 3 cups (375 grams or 13.2 ounces) bread flour plus additional, as needed
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil plus more for greasing the bowl
  • teaspoons salt

Baking soda bath

  • ½ cup (4 ounces) boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda

Egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon pretzel salt or other coarse salt

Instructions

  • Combine the ingredients for the sponge (1 cup flour, powdered milk, yeast, honey, malt syrup, and water) in the bowl of your mixer or in a medium sized mixing bowl.
    1 cup (125 grams or 4.4 ounces) bread flour, ¼ cup powdered milk, 1 teaspoon instant yeast, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup, 1¼ cup (283 fluid milliliters or 10 ounces) warm water
  • Over the top of the sponge, add the remaining bread flour and yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let the bowl sit in a warm place until the sponge is bubbling through the flour cover, about 1 to 2 hours.
    3 cups (375 grams or 13.2 ounces) bread flour, 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • Mix the dough using the paddle attachment of your mixer until it starts to come together. Then add the oil and salt and switch to the dough hook for your mixer.
    2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil, 1½ teaspoons salt
  • Knead the dough using the dough hook for 7 to 8 minutes until it is soft and smooth and can be stretched without tearing. The dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky, so you may need to add a bit more flour or water during the kneading process.
  • Shape the dough into a boule and place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
  • When the dough has doubled in size, grease a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan.
  • Prepare the water bath by whisking together the boiling water and baking soda in a glass loaf pan or baking dish. Let cool enough so you don't burn your hands, then form the dough into a loaf and roll it around in the baking soda bath to cover it completely.
    ½ cup (4 ounces) boiling water, 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • Carefully, because it will be a little slippery, put it seam side down in the prepared loaf pan. Cover it with plastic wrap and again let it rise in a warm place until it has risen about one inch above the sides of the pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • While the oven is preheating, lightly beat the egg for the egg wash. Brush it all over the top of the pretzel loaf, being careful not to get too much wash along the edge of the pan, which will cause the loaf to stick.
    1 egg
  • Sprinkle the top liberally with the coarse salt.
    1 tablespoon pretzel salt or other coarse salt
  • Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the internal temperature of the loaf is 185 to 190°F. The crust should be a beautiful deep brown and the bottom of the pretzel bread will give a hollow sound when you thump it.
  • Let cool for at least one hour prior to slicing.

Notes

On very warm days or in a warm house, consider reducing the yeast to use one half teaspoon in your starter and loaf.
This pretzel bread loaf will remain fresh for several days at room temperature. However, the salt on top may start to dissolve into the bread after a couple of days, so this pretzel loaf is best eaten fresh or sliced and frozen after cooling. To use your frozen pretzel bread, just pop it into the toaster.

Nutrition

Calories: 158kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 12mg | Sodium: 873mg | Potassium: 77mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 34IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg
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Are you an adventurous home cook looking for inspiration in your weeknight meals and weekend baking? Get inspiration here:

a loaf of pretzel bread on a cutting board.

2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thnanks so much for sharing this recipe. As fall is starting to creep into the night air, I was talking with my kid the other day about how good pretzel bread would work for back to school lunches … so I decided to try it. This recipe was relatively straight forward and came out great on the first try ! I did add a couple Tablespoons of diastatic malt powder with the extra flour you set on the sponge. I also noticed it was really dry when kneading (the thumping from the mixer got a little intense) … figured it was going to be a problem shaping in a loaf, so midway through the kneading I added close to 1/4 cup more of warm water (a Tablespoon at a time) to make the dough a bit lax – it definitely needed it. Anyway the end result was perfect – great in the toaster, great with some ham or Kielbasa Loaf. Great stuff.

    1. So glad you liked this pretzel bread (and hopefully your kiddo finds it a happy part of return to school). Thanks for letting me know!

5 from 2 votes (1 rating without comment)

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