Serves a Crowd

Pretzel for a Crowd

September 28, 2022
4 Ratings
Photo by Linda Xiao
  • Prep time 3 hours
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 8 to 10
Author Notes

A fun thing to do with pretzel dough: Make one big pretzel to serve a crowd! There's really no wrong way to intertwine the strands; just be sure to leave some space between pieces of dough while you work, or they'll rise and bake together and it won't look as pretzel-y! Oh, and don't forget the mustard. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

What You'll Need
  • Dough
  • 5 1/2 cups (660 g) bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons (25 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (9 g) instant dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons (12 g) kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (340 g) warm water
  • Finishing
  • 2 cups (472 mL) water
  • 2/3 cup (160 g) baking soda
  • egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water + 1 pinch salt), as needed for finishing
  • Coarse, flaky, or flavored salt, for finishing
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt to combine, 30 seconds-1 minute.
  2. Add the butter and water and mix on low speed until the dough comes together, 3 minutes. Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is very smooth, 4 minutes more.
  3. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until noticeably puffy and nearly double in size, 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 10 even pieces (about 85 g each). Cover the dough loosely with greased plastic wrap on your work surface and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. I like to use the bottom of the baking sheet so there’s no edges getting in the way (or you can opt for a totally flat cookie sheet if you’ve got one!
  6. Start by making the outer ring: You’ll use 3 pieces of dough, so start by gently pressing them together a bit. Press the dough into a slightly oblong shape, just by pushing it flat with your fingers. Start at the top of the dough (the end farthest away from you), and fold one third of the piece of dough over onto itself. Press firmly with your fingertips or with the heel of your hand to "seal." Continue to fold the dough over and press to seal until it has formed a log shape.
  7. Starting with very light pressure in the center of the dough, roll the dough between your hands and the work surface, elongating the log. Roll until the strand is evenly about 1/3 inch in circumference. Form the strand into a large ring on the prepared baking sheet, and press the ends together where they meet to seal.
  8. Now it’s time to shape the inside. First, shape each piece of dough as described above, folding it over onto itself and sealing with your fingers or the heel of your hand, then rolling into a strand. I usually build from the outside in: I start with a round shape with the first piece of dough. Next, I twist another piece of dough around a portion of that circle so that they are connected, then I make it into a round too. Make sure each piece of dough is touching (or even twisted partially around) the outer ring. It doesn’t have to be twisted, though; if it’s touching, it will rise together, bake together, and stay together (promise)! Really, anything goes here—just intertwine the last 7 dough strands together to make twists, rounds, and such until you’ve got one big pretzel!
  9. Cover the pretzel with greased plastic wrap and let it rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  10. While the dough rises, prepare your lye solution. Wear gloves and eye protection! Place the lye in a large, non-reactive, heat-safe bowl. Pour the boiling water over the lye, taking care not to inhale the steam that emits from the lye. Wait 1 minute, then add the cold water to the mixture, and cool a bit (or all the way to room temperature).
  11. Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit/205° Celsius. Use a pastry brush to generously brush the entire surface and sides of the dough with the lye solution—I usually do it twice to make sure I didn’t miss a spot. Top generously with coarse salt.
  12. Bake until the pretzel is deeply golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes (if you’re not sure if it’s done, you can always take an internal temp; it should be around 185° Fahrenheit. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving with mustard and beer!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • Mark Hordyszynski
    Mark Hordyszynski
  • henandchicks
  • Jeff Harman
    Jeff Harman
  • The Pontificator
    The Pontificator
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

17 Reviews

Cracker March 5, 2023
Any chance of posting a video? I’m having difficulty visializing the shaping directions.
joanna January 27, 2019
Can these be frozen before final cooking stage ?
Erin J. January 22, 2018
Thanks for all your comments everyone! The recipe has been edited - thanks so much!
bergamotdreams March 5, 2023
Would really love an updated instruction list. It ends with lye which isn’t even listed in the ingredients
Mark H. October 15, 2017
C'mon! Get it together, please. WHERE IS THE SUGAR? No wonder why people get turned off by recipes.
Nina A. October 13, 2020
NO sugar!!!! I'm live in Philly and sugar is sacrilege!
Jacob M. February 5, 2017
I believe the salt was left off as well
Sam S. December 3, 2016
I agree- the two tablespoons of sugar are missing
Lori June 3, 2016
Erin, I believe 23 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar should be added to the ingredient list. Instructions say to add sugar, but no sugar is listed...
henandchicks May 29, 2016
I have had success with a soda/hot water solution when making pretzels. It is NOT the same exact thing as using lye, but gives a similar deep ocher brown color, similar flavor, and similar adherence factor for the salt crystals. To achieve the golden shine that lye offers, the soda solution can be topped with a loose egg yolk glaze. I enjoy following an unusual or ethnic recipe to the T (after all, isn't that part of the fun? Sourcing ingredients and thinking about how a recipe originated?) However, even when I lived in a larger city, food grade lye had to be ordered online, the lye available in Publix was used for opening drains, and dangerously caustic- as is the food grade product! Even though my students were college aged, it seemed like there was so much room for dangerous error- not in consuming the product, which bakes dry in the oven, but in the production. I do hope that anyone trying this heeds the good advice below or finds a text book with a full discussion on using lye in cooking.
Callam T. June 5, 2016
What ratio of soda to water do you use?
Jeff H. May 29, 2016
As a soap maker I would like to share some safety tips on working with lye.
Always pour lye into water while gently stirring with a stainless steel spoon. continue stirring until the mixture has dissolved the lye crystals. Use food grade lye that can be obtained from soap making suppliers and for clean up neutralize the utensils with plenty of vinegar and let sit before continuing with soap and water. Lye is a strong alkaline and needs to have an acid to return the ph to a safe level.
The P. May 28, 2016
Lye? Care to fill us in on that one? What's it do? Where do you purchase it?
nadia May 28, 2016
bakergirl May 29, 2016

I'll stick with an egg/water wash on top.
myboyboris May 29, 2016
You can get it on Amazon. I've never had a problem working with it. As someone who LOVES pretzels I would never use a substitute.
qktiles October 20, 2017
....but if your house has a septic system, as mine does, never ever use lye.