In the world of homemade snacks, few things are as satisfying as a batch of Homemade Sourdough Soft Pretzels, served warm with a rich, gooey Cheddar Cheese Sauce. This soft sourdough pretzel recipe combines traditional flavor with a tangy sourdough twist, delivering the perfect snack for any occasion. Whether you’re a seasoned baker or trying your hand at sourdough recipes for the first time, this step-by-step guide will help you achieve the best results.Jump to Recipe
The Pretzel Dough: A Sourdough Start
Embarking on the journey to create soft sourdough pretzels begins with the magic of sourdough. Unlike traditional pretzel recipes that rely on commercial yeast for leavening, this soft sourdough pretzel recipe taps into the power of an active sourdough starter, infusing the pretzels with a depth of flavor and a tangy twist that sets them apart.
Crafting the Dough
The process starts by blending 1 cup of lukewarm water with an equal part of active sourdough starter. This mixture forms the backbone of your pretzel dough, ensuring that each bite is filled with the traditional flavor that only sourdough can provide. Mixing until well incorporated, the starter and water become the perfect base to which the rest of the ingredients are added.
Next, introduce 3 cups of all-purpose flour into the mix. The flour not only provides structure to the dough but also the canvas for the sourdough’s tangy notes to shine. Along with the flour, add 1 tablespoon of honey for a subtle sweetness that complements the sourdough’s complexity, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil to give the dough a soft, chewy texture, essential for the perfect pretzel bite.
Finally, 2 teaspoons of salt are mixed in to enhance the dough’s flavors, ensuring that each pretzel is as delicious as it is beautiful. Once combined, the mixture transforms into a cohesive dough, ready for the next crucial step: fermentation.
Fermentation: Developing Flavor and Texture
Cover the dough with a moist tea towel, creating an ideal environment for the sourdough starter to work its magic. The dough should be allowed to ferment for at least 10-12 hours at room temperature.
This slow fermentation process is key to developing the dough’s flavor and texture. As the dough rests, the sourdough starter ferments the flour, creating soft sourdough pretzels with a complex taste profile and a delightful chewy texture, distinguishing them from their store-bought counterparts.
This fermentation period not only enriches the dough with a tangy flavor but also contributes to the pretzels’ digestibility. The natural leavening process breaks down the flour, making the final pretzels easier to digest while enhancing their nutritional value.
Shaping and Boiling: Achieving the Golden Brown Perfection
After fermentation, the dough is ready to be shaped into pretzels. This stage is where the baker’s creativity shines, as the dough can be twisted into traditional pretzel shapes, formed into bite-sized pieces for sourdough pretzel bites, or even reimagined into sourdough bagels with a sprinkle of bagel seasoning on top.
Shaping the Pretzels
After the dough has risen and is filled with airy bubbles, indicating a successful fermentation, divide it into equal pieces. Each piece is then rolled on a lightly floured surface into a long rope, about 18 to 24 inches in length. The trick is to achieve a uniform thickness throughout the rope to ensure even baking.
Creating the pretzel shape requires a bit of finesse. Form a U-shape with the rope, cross the ends over each other twice, and press them down onto the bottom of the U. This method creates the distinctive pretzel shape, with a plump bottom and a neatly twisted top. At this point, precision in shaping will contribute to the visual appeal of your final product.
Preparing the Baking Soda Bath
The boiling step, unique to pretzel making, is what sets pretzels apart from other baked goods. In a large pot of boiling water, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar. The baking soda bath is essential for developing the pretzels’ chewy texture and deep golden brown color. The alkaline solution gelatinizes the surface of the dough, creating a barrier that results in the pretzels’ signature crust.
Boiling the Pretzels
Gently lower each pretzel into the simmering baking soda bath using a slotted spoon. Boil each side for about 30 seconds, ensuring the entire surface of the pretzel comes into contact with the solution. This brief boiling process is critical for achieving the shiny, pretzel-salt-ready exterior that makes sourdough soft pretzels so irresistible.
After boiling, transfer the pretzels onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. This step not only prevents sticking but also allows for an easy transition to the baking stage. The pretzels should be spaced apart to ensure they have room to expand and brown evenly in the oven.
The Egg Wash and Salt
Before baking, brush each pretzel with an egg wash, a mixture of beaten egg and a little water. The egg wash enhances the golden color of the pretzels. It also helps the coarse or pretzel salt adhere to the surface, adding a savory crunch that contrasts beautifully with the soft, chewy interior.
Sprinkle the pretzels generously with coarse salt or pretzel salt before they go into the oven. This step is not only for flavor but also adds texture and visual appeal to the finished pretzels.
Baking to Perfection
Bake the pretzels in a preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes or until they reach a deep golden brown color. The high oven temperature ensures a rapid crust formation, locking in the moisture and creating the soft, pillowy interior that’s characteristic of the best homemade soft pretzels.
Cheddar Cheese Sauce: Creamy and Tangy
No homemade soft sourdough pretzel recipe is complete without a delicious dip. The Cheddar Cheese Sauce, with its creamy consistency and tangy taste, is the ideal pairing, elevating the overall snacking experience. This sauce transforms simple ingredients into a decadent condiment that’s versatile and utterly irresistible.
The Foundation of Flavor
The journey to a rich cheese sauce begins with a classic roux. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is bubbling, whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour, ensuring the mixture is smooth and free of lumps. This roux, a blend of butter and flour, acts as the thickening agent, setting the stage for a perfectly creamy sauce.
Gradually Incorporating Milk
With the roux ready, slowly add 1 cup of milk, whisking constantly to prevent any clumps from forming. The key here is patience; add the milk gradually to ensure it fully integrates with the roux, creating a smooth mixture. As the sauce simmers, it will start to thicken, transforming into a velvety base for the cheddar cheese.
Melting in the Cheddar
Once the milk mixture has thickened, reduce the heat to low and stir in 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese. The choice of cheddar is crucial—sharp cheddar is recommended for its depth of flavor and excellent melting properties. Continue whisking until the cheese has completely melted and the sauce is smooth and homogeneous. The result is a cheesy dip that’s rich in flavor and perfectly creamy.
Customizing the Flavor
For those who enjoy a bit of heat, this is the moment to add 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce. The hot sauce introduces a little kick that complements the tangy cheddar beautifully, adding complexity to the sauce. It transforms the cheese sauce into a spicy nacho cheese variation. It is perfect for those who appreciate a bit of spice in their dips.
This soft sourdough pretzel recipe with cheddar sauce from scratch might seem daunting, but it’s a rewarding experience. The key to perfect soft pretzel bites lies in patience and simple ingredients. Whether enjoyed as a cozy weekend project or a way to impress guests, these pretzels prove that homemade is always worth the little time and effort. So, next time you crave something salty, skip the grocery stores and use this soft sourdough pretzel recipe – they’re sure to become your new favorite snack. If you are looking for more sourdough snacks, try our Sourdough Discard Raspberry Pop Tarts with Lemon Glaze Icing or our Mini Apple Pies with Sourdough Crust.
Soft Sourdough Pretzel Recipe with Cheddar Sauce
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 1 medium saucepan
- 1 baking sheet
- 1 large pot
- 1 slotted spoon
- 1 whisk
- 1 cup active starter
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1-2 tsp hot sauce optional
- Mix 1 cup of lukewarm water with an equal part of active sourdough starter.
- Next, introduce 3 cups of all-purpose flour into the mix.
- Add in 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp olive oil and the 2 tsp of salt.
- Mix ingredients by hand or with a wooden spoon until a cohesive dough forms.
- Cover with a moist tea towel and allow to ferment at room temperature for 10-12 hours.
- After the dough has risen, divide into equal parts.
- Each piece is then rolled on a lightly floured surface into a long rope, about 18 to 24 inches in length.
- Form a U-shape with the rope, cross the ends over each other twice, and press them down onto the bottom of the U. This method creates the distinctive pretzel shape, with a plump bottom and a neatly twisted top.
- In a large pot of boiling water, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar.
- Gently lower each pretzel into the simmering baking soda bath using a slotted spoon.
- Boil each side for about 30 seconds, ensuring the entire surface of the pretzel comes into contact with the solution.
- After boiling, transfer the pretzels onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
- Brush each pretzel with an egg wash and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt.
- Bake the pretzels in a preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes or until they reach a deep golden brown color.
Cheddar Cheese Sauce
- Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Once the butter is bubbling, whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour, ensuring the mixture is smooth and free of lumps.
- Slowly add 1 cup of milk, whisking constantly to prevent any clumps from forming.
- Once the milk mixture has thickened, reduce the heat to low and stir in 8 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese.
- Continue whisking until the cheese has completely melted and the sauce is smooth.
- For those who enjoy a bit of heat, this is the moment to add 1-2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce or a tsp of cayenne pepper.