After cider, sourdough is probably my second favorite thing to make. Like hard cider, it is very diverse. You can use it to make so many different foods and just like cider, you can combine it with many different adjuncts. Pizza and crackers have been at the top of the list for using my sourdough. That may be changing as I have started to make sourdough pretzels. These are styled after the bretzels I would get when in Germany and this recipe is the closest I have come to reproducing one of my favorite German snacks.
This recipe uses my usual sourdough discard of around 220 grams (about 3/4 cup). Make sure you have enough baking soda. That is 120 grams (6 tablespoons), which is quite a bit. You could use a food grade lye, which would be more traditional, but that’s not readily available in my area so I stick with the baking soda approach. It may not be obvious until you eat one but there are two distinct styles in each pretzel. The top smaller pieces are crunchy and what you commonly find in the pretzels on the snack aisle of the US grocery stores. The bigger bottom part is soft and like what you’d find at a restaurant or bar served with cheese sauce. In Germany, they usually slice the large bottom section and insert cold butter for breakfast, though I had the habit of eating them all day long. I also quite enjoy these plain. No matter how serve them, add a cider and you have a superb snack.
Sourdough Cider Pretzels
Servings: 8 Servings
150 ml (2/3 cup) Hard Cider, Warm (Water will work)
8 grams (2 teaspoons) Sugar
220 grams (3/4 cup) Sourdough Discard, Room Temperature
~400 grams (3 1/4 cups ) Strong Bread Flour (AP will work)
20 grams (3 teaspoons) Baking Powder
50 grams (1/2 stick or 1/4 cup) Unsalted Butter, Softened
4 grams (1 teaspoon) Salt
Baking Soda Treatment:
2 l (8.5 cups) Watery
120 grams (6 tablespoons) Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate)
- Warm the hard cider and dissolve the sugar in it.
- In a mixing bowl, I recommend a stand mixer with a kneading hook, combine the warm cider and sugar mixture with the sourdough discard, about a quarter of the flour (100 grams), and the softened butter. Mix for 3 minutes.
- Mix in about about half the flour (200 grams) along with the baking powder and salt. You will need the dough hook.
- You want to form a dough that is very elastic and smooth but not excessively dense. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes (longer is better). Add enough of the remaining flour (100 grams) to create a dough that doesn’t stick the sides and forms a smooth surface. At the end of the kneading it should have a plastic look to it where there is a slight sheen (see pictures below) and strong resistance to a finger impression.
- Cover and let rise overnight (at least 8 hours). This will help bring out more of the sourness. I let mine rise up to 16 hours. If needed, you can even let it rise for extended periods of time in the refrigerator. You can also shorten the proofing time. The goal is to have the dough double in size at least.
- Divide the dough into 8 equally sized balls (see photo).
- Form the pretzel by lightly flouring a work surface. Begin by rolling the ball into a stick of equal size. After making this stick about 13-15cm (5-6 inches), leave the middle part alone and begin working the ends. Roll each end another approximate 13-15cm (5-6 inches) long. The pretzel should be about 39-45cm (15-18 inches) long with thin semi-uniform ends and a thick tapering middle (see photos).
- Cross your hands in front of your body and pick up each end. Uncross your hands, twisting the pretzel in the process. I tuck my ends under my pretzels while some place them on top. Either way, pinch the dough into the larger middle section. A little water may help them stick together.
- Place the formed pretzel on parchment paper. Cover and let rise while preparing the soda treatment.
- Use a large pot with at least triple volume of water (6 liters) and add the 2 liters of water. Bring this to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Slowly add the baking soda. Be careful as this combination is very active and will bubble profusely.
- Place each pretzel in the soda water for 1-2 minutes before removing and placing back on the parchment paper. A large slotted spoon or wide slotted spatula helps.
- Top each pretzel with a sprinkling of flake salt.
- Make a very shallow horizontal incision in the thick middle portion. This will allow the pretzel to expand during baking.
- Heat your oven to 200C (395F) while the pretzels rest. I recommend a baking stone or steel.
- Bake the pretzels for 10-15 minutes until a deep brown.
- Remove and cool on a rack.
- Enjoy plain or with butter and a homemade cider.
What type of cider goes well with Sourdough Pretzels? The real question is what type of cider wouldn’t go well with these wonderful pretzels! In keeping with German theme, the first I tried was a hopped cider. That was the closest to a beer I had. It was exception. Try my Cider Lite recipe for some inspiration on creating your own hopped cider or look for other inspiring options on my recipe page. If you were wondering, my Bitter Orange worked well too. But, so did Black Magic and Silver Sun. I am thinking you can’t go wrong but give it a try yourself and let me know what you discover! Don’t forget, my book doesn’t just include tips on how the make hard cider. It also has food and cider recipes to inspire your next cider feast! Check it out.
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