It’s hard to improve on the classic goodness of a good American barbecue (or cookout, depending on what part of the United States you live in). Hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken drumsticks and corn all cooked on a grill are the height of summer perfection.
But I am always thinking about carbs — specifically, how to add delicious, homemade carbs to any meal. So on a recent Sunday when my kids were out of the house, I decided it was time to whip up some homemade pretzel challah rolls to go with some burgers.
Spoiler alert: They were delicious. And while it may sound like a complicated or fancy thing to make, the truth is if you’re already making challah, you are just one step away from making these buns. What gives a pretzel its distinct flavor, texture and gorgeous deep hue is actually a baking soda bath, so right before baking the rolls, you are going to dip each bun into a simmering pot of water with baking soda. The authentic pretzel-y smell is seriously a joy.
There are a few things I would recommend to have on hand to make these buns: a food scale, to measure out each bun as perfectly as possible; a bread lame like this for scoring the top (although you can just use an extra sharp knife); and, if you have kids, a book called Walter the Baker, by Eric Carle. OK, that last item isn’t really necessary for the recipe, but my kids love the book and, ya know, it’s about pretzels. Two other items I like using: a pastry brush like this and a metal spider.
Notes: If you have a challah recipe you already love using, just skip ahead to Step 7 below — you can use any recipe you like. But fresh is best; I wouldn’t try making these pretzel buns any more than one day ahead of serving. (And yes, you can freeze them — I know that was your next question anyway.)
You can easily double or triple this recipe to make rolls for a crowd.
For the dough:
1-1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbsp. dry yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
4-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (preferably King Arthur brand)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp. fine sea salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
large pot of water
2 Tbsp. baking soda
1 egg, beaten
thick sea salt or pretzel salt
1. In a small bowl, place the yeast, 1/2 tsp. sugar and lukewarm water. Stir gently to mix. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes until it becomes foamy on top.
2. In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1-1/2 cups flour, salt and sugar. Add the water-yeast mixture and oil to flour. Mix thoroughly.
3. Add another 1 cup of the flour and 2 eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
4. Add the remaining flour and mix until dough comes together. It should feel slightly dense and just a tad sticky.
5. Remove from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Hand knead for 30 seconds, or just until dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
6. Place in a large greased bowl. Drape a warm, wet dish towel over the top and allow to rise 3 hours.
7. Using a food scale, portion out rolls into 2 1/2- to 3-oz. pieces. Roll into balls and place on a baking sheet or large plate. Drape towel over them and allow them to rise another 30 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 375 F while the dough rises.
9. While rolls are doing their second rise, bring a large pot of water to boil. Reduce heat to medium and add 2 heaping Tbsp. baking soda to the pot.
10. Using a slotted spoon or spider, dunk each roll into the baking soda bath for 30 seconds, turn and keep immersed on the other side for another 30 seconds. Remove each roll, letting the excess water drip off before placing on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.
11. Brush each roll with egg wash using a pastry brush. Score the top using a sharp knife or bread lame (see above) into an X.
12. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Serve fresh with burgers of your choice. Serves 10.