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Gluten Free Pretzel Rolls

Gluten Free Pretzel Rolls

Gluten free pretzel rolls, with their crisp and chewy crust and super fluffy crumb, will quickly become your favorite sandwich roll.

Pretzel rolls baked on tray

How are these gluten free pretzel rolls are different?

Why would anyone call these “bretzels”? Pretzel is a perfectly fine name. These rolls are so nice and crunchy-chewy on the outside, tender and almost tangy-sweet on the inside.

This yeast bread dough is in the batter dough style of gluten free bread, so it’s a wet dough. But there’s something about the combination of enrichments like butter and buttermilk powder, plus egg whites, that makes it nearly as easy to shape as gluten free dough made with our gluten free bread flour.

Raw pretzel dough ball

How to make and shape the dough

The method is simple. Make the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. If you don’t have a stand mixer but you do have a food processor, I think the dough would work pulsed in a food processor as well.

Then chill the raw dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, and up to 3 days. Be sure it’s in a well-sealed container, though, or it will dry out.

Tips for getting your yeast roll and bread dough to rise

On the day you’re planning to bake the rolls, be sure you have enough time to allow them to rise, and then bake. You’ll divide the dough into 8 portions, roll each into a ball, then flatten a bit into a disk, which will create a shape that’s perfect for sandwiches.

If you struggle to get your yeasted bread dough to rise, here are a few tips. Be sure you’re using a proper gluten free flour blend, first and foremost, and measuring by weight, not volume (even water!).

Moisture is key

Your dough must have the right amount of moisture—and better to have it too wet than too dry. If it’s too dry, the yeast will not be able to activate and create a rise.

Don’t add any more flour than necessary to the dough during shaping, which will dry out your dough. Too much flour is essentially serving to reduce the relative amount of water in the recipe, which is called its hydration ratio. Too low, and your dough won’t rise.

Chilling the dough prior to working with it will make it easier to handle. That should make it easier to avoid adding too much flour during shaping.

So is patience and a keen eye

If you’re impatient for your yeast bread dough to rise, you might run into trouble. Yeast is alive. We can’t control it. All we can do is create an environment that encourages it to grow. Kind of like raising a child?

Rising will take longer in a dry, cool environment, and less time in a warm, humid environment. Do not place it in a heated oven, to any temperature, to rise or you risk killing the yeast.

“Overproofing” is possible, though, so you must keep an eye on your dough. But it’s a matter of rising too much, not rising for too long.

If the rise begins to break through the surface, and creates a cratered or pock-marked appearance on the outside, it’s gone too far and will be fragile. That will make it difficult to boil.

Pretzel Rolls shaped and unrisen

Why boil pretzels and pretzel rolls?

After they finish rising, you’ll boil the rolls in a baking soda bath, which is just water with some baking soda. The “right” way to boil bagels is in lye, but that’s just a bridge too far. It’s dangerous and scary and totally not necessary for our purposes!

Boiling them in a baking soda bath will help the rolls brown in the oven, create that crisp-tender crust, and reduce the “oven spring,” or amount the rolls rise in the oven. That keeps the inside from becoming too airy.

If you’ve overproofed your raw dough, the rolls will be quite difficult to boil. You might consider only boiling the ones that don’t seem too fragile, brush the rest with melted butter or an egg wash, and hope for the best!

Pretzel rolls boiled unbaked

Should you salt the tops of your rolls?

I don’t usually salt the tops of the rolls until soon before serving. Adding salt to the outside of the rolls draws moisture out of the rolls, which causes them to go stale more quickly.

Instead of salting the rolls when they’re still raw, I prefer to brush them with a tiny bit of water and salt them soon before serving. But if you plan to eat the rolls within a short time of their coming out of the oven, salt them when they’re still raw.

Pretzel rolls cut in half showing inside

Ingredients and substitutions

Dairy

There is only a bit of dairy in this recipe, and it should be relatively easy to replace. For the butter, my favorite vegan butters (Melt or Miyoko’s Kitchen brand) would likely work just fine. Even Earth Balance buttery sticks should work, but cut back on the salt by half since they’re quite salty. 

Buttermilk powder really helps add richness to the rolls, similar to the butter. In its place, you can try using coconut milk powder. 

Eggs

The two egg whites called for this in this recipe help provide structure to the rolls. If you can’t have eggs, you can try replacing the egg whites with an equal amount, by weight, of aquafaba, which is the brine from a can of chickpeas.

I haven’t tried this swap, though, so I honestly don’t know how well it would work, if at all. If you do try it, I recommend beating the aquafaba until foamy with a whisk before adding it.

Instant yeast

Instant yeast is also called bread maker or rapid-rise yeast. If you only have active dry yeast, you can use it but you’ll need to use more of it since active dry yeast has a thicker inactive coating than instant yeast. 

To replace instant yeast with active dry yeast, multiply the amount of instant yeast called for in the recipe (here, 9 grams) by 125%, and proof the yeast in about 1/4 cup of the water called for in the recipe before adding it to the dough. Here, that would mean using a bit more than 11 grams of active dry yeast. 

There is no substitute for yeast in this recipe. If you can’t use yeast for any reason, you’ll need a yeast-free recipe, like our yeast free gluten free rolls

Cream of tartar and apple cider vinegar

I always get a lot of questions about cream of tartar and apple cider vinegar, since they seem like unusual ingredients to some. They both help activate the baking soda in the rolls, and are useful especially in gluten free bread baking.

Cream of tartar is available in the spice aisle of most grocery stores, and is worth purchasing when you see it. If you don’t have it, you can try using 1 teaspoonful of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

In fact, you can try using more lemon juice in place of the apple cider vinegar as well. Otherwise, another white vinegar is fine. 

 

Gluten Free Bread: Soft Pretzel Rolls

raw gluten free pretzel dough, baked pretzel rolls whole and sliced

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: 8 rolls

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups (455 g) all purpose gluten-free flour, plus more for sprinkling (I used Better Batter)

1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)

Scant 1/2 cup (43 g) cultured buttermilk blend powder, or 1/3 cup (40 g) dry milk powder

1 tablespoon (9 g) instant yeast

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon (13 g) packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons (28 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 egg whites (50 g), at room temperature

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water (about 95°F)

Baking soda bath for boiling (6 cups water + 1 tablespoon baking soda + 1 teaspoon salt)

Coarse salt for sprinkling (optional)

Directions

  • Place the flour, xanthan gum, buttermilk powder, yeast, cream of tartar, baking soda and sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Whisk to combine well with a handheld whisk. Add the salt, and whisk again to combine well. Add the cider vinegar, butter, and egg whites, and beat to combine well. With the mixer on low speed, add the water in a slow but steady stream. Once you have added all the water, turn the mixer up to high and beat for about 3 minutes or until the dough takes on a whipped appearance. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bucket with a tight-fitting lid, cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

  • Turn the chilled dough out onto a piece of lightly floured flat surface. Dust the top with flour, and divide into 8 equal portions. Work with one piece of dough at a time, dusting lightly with more flour as necessary to prevent sticking. Form each into a round (see the video for a visual of shaping dough into a small round). Using the palm of your hand, press the ball down into a flat disk about 1/2-inch thick. Place a couple inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and place in a warm, draft-free environment and allow to rise until risen to about 150% of its original size. Rising will take longer in a dry, cool environment, and less time in a warm, humid environment. Do not place it in a heated oven, to any temperature, to rise or you risk killing the yeast.

  • While the dough is nearing the end of its rise, preheat your oven to 375°F and place the baking soda bath in a large heavy-bottom pot on the stovetop to boil over high heat. Once the dough is done rising, place the rolls one or two at a time into the boiling baking soda bath for less than one minute per side. Do not crowd them; they should move freely in the boiling water. Remove the rolls with a strainer and return them to the same baking sheet. Using a small sharp knife or lame, slice 2 parallel lines in the top of each roll at a 45° angle, about 1/4-inch deep. If you plan to serve the rolls soon after baking, sprinkle the tops with coarse salt to taste. If you don’t plan to serve the rolls soon after baking, don’t add the salt as it will draw moisture out of the rolls as they cool. Place the rolls in the center of the preheated oven and bake until golden brown all over, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool on the pan before slicing and serving. If you haven’t salted the rolls before baking, brush the tops lightly with water and sprinkle with coarse salt before serving.

  • To store any leftover rolls, slice and place in a tightly sealed bag, eliminating as much air as possible. Place in the freezer. Defrost in the microwave briefly, or at room temperature. To crisp the rolls, wet the outside with about 1 tablespoon of water for each roll and refresh in a 300°F toaster oven before serving.

  • Originally published on the blog in 2012. Recipe unchanged; most photos and text new; video new.

Love,
Nicole

  • Nurit Philip
    July 21, 2020 at 1:52 AM

    Thank you for the recipe, what can I use instead of yeast?

    • Nicole Hunn
      July 21, 2020 at 8:40 AM

      You can’t replace yeast in a yeast bread recipe, Nurit. Please search “yeast free” on the blog and find the recipes I’ve specifically developed to be yeast free.

  • Lauren
    July 11, 2020 at 2:16 PM

    Hi, Thank you for all your amazing recipes! I was about to try these but do not have any buttermilk powder. Would regular buttermilk work or are there any other substitutes you would recommend?

    • Nicole Hunn
      July 11, 2020 at 2:22 PM

      You can always have a look at the ingredients and substitutions section of (almost) every post on the blog, Lauren! I recommend trying to buy some buttermilk powder, actually, since it’s very useful as an ingredient—but no, you cannot replace it with liquid buttermilk. You can try using dry milk powder in its place.

  • Kelli
    June 17, 2020 at 10:35 AM

    When I boiled the rolls, the water became VERY frothy! Is this normal? I did 6 cups of water, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon of salt. I used the exact same ingredients (even better batter) and measured everything by weight just as suggested. Do I need a bigger pot with shallower bath? Thanks!

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 17, 2020 at 11:08 AM

      The baking soda bath does tend to froth, and will do that even more if you put too many rolls in the bath to boil at once or if your pot is on the smaller side. You can try using a bigger pot, and boiling fewer rolls at a time. But as long as the rolls boiled properly, then it’s not very important.

  • Kara
    June 12, 2020 at 7:21 PM

    Is it ok to use whey protein instead of whey protein isolate? If not, what will happen if I don’t use whey protein isolate?

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 13, 2020 at 11:36 AM

      Hi, Kara, there is no whey protein isolate called for in this recipe. If you’re referring to my gluten free bread flour blend, you must use whey protein isolate, which is nearly pure protein. Whey protein has too many fillers, and simply won’t work. I go into more detail in my book.

  • Cheryl
    June 12, 2020 at 12:22 AM

    Cyndie,
    If you read Nicoles’s other posts here on the blog about gf flour you will see that Cup 4 Cup flour is very starchy and should not be used as an all purpose flour. If you need to use it up it works great in her cream biscuit recipe.

  • Sophie
    June 10, 2020 at 4:46 PM

    These look amazing! I haven’t had pretzels since being diagnosed nearly ten years ago! Making pretzels or pretzel rolls is next on my list for sure. By the way, “bretzel” comes from German. Here in Switzerland I often walk past a shop called “Bretzelkönig”—“pretzel king”—in the train stations and it makes my mouth water every time. Kind of like Auntie Anne’s back home, though totally different styles!

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 11, 2020 at 10:02 AM

      That’s so interesting, Sophie! It sounded like a cutesy name like “brookies” or something to me. I’m actually kind of glad it’s one of those German words that we use in English because we don’t have anything better, like schadenfreude. :)

  • Cyndie
    June 10, 2020 at 4:22 PM

    My dough was so wet after resting in the refrigerator for two hours it just rolled out of the bowl. I tried to shape them and added more flour. After rising again they were so soft that they broke apart in the water. I used cup4cup and weighed everything. Where did I go wrong?

    • Nicole Hunn
      June 11, 2020 at 10:01 AM

      Did you weigh your water, Cyndie, and did you make any substitutions, like omitting an ingredient that didn’t seem “important”? That’s very common and can lead to poor results. I’m not sure what you mean about its being so wet it rolled out of the bowl but it sounds like too much water.

  • January 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM

    OH, I just LOVE these…When I lived in Switzerland, I could buy pretzel dough rolls called “Silzerli” or something like that…and in Germany they were called Laugenbrötchen. These are the best…and I love the salt on top :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

    • January 26, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      Oooh that sounds exciting, Heather. Swiss pretzel rolls. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • January 25, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    hum…mini pretzel buns for little pulled pork sliders? I know what I’m making on Saturday!

  • Karen
    January 25, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    A batch is in the oven. Can’t wait to see how they turn out! Kind of felt weird putting them in the baking soda bath :)

  • Joleen
    January 25, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Before going GFree, we would eat pretzel buns regularly, they were becoming more available I found. We have missed them soooo much – a million thank yous to you! These will be a nice surprise for my husband and my kids… who am I kidding – me too!

    • January 25, 2012 at 10:16 AM

      Hi, Joleen,
      You’re so welcome. I think it should be first for you… and then for them. You gotta take care of #1! I’m so happy I could help bring you back. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Michelle Dunton Olejar on Facebook
    January 25, 2012 at 10:04 AM

    Seriously? Do you have a tap into my mind Nicole? I think, you provide. I am loving it! Just two days ago I thought to myself “a gluten free pretzel roll would be awesome. I wonder if anyone has thought of that?” :)

  • Gina Cunetta Barbara on Facebook
    January 25, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    pleazzzzz

  • Wanda Starr on Facebook
    January 25, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    Mmmm….I can hardly wait to try these!

  • January 25, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Cannot wait to make these!! Thank you!

  • Jen Torbeck Merrill on Facebook
    January 25, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    Ooh! Think they freeze ok after baking?

    • January 25, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      Hi, Jen,
      They sure do. In the printable recipe, I actually suggest freezing whatever you don’t eat when you make them.
      xoxo Nicole

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