Updated: Jan 17
These tasty pretzel bites are 100% gluten-free, paleo, and scrumptious!
For the printable recipe PDF click here.
So I got this idea in my head that I should feature an Oktoberfest-themed post-list on the Five Monsters Paleo homepage. It would be seasonally appropriate, and I already had several posts that would fit the bill, so it seemed like a great plan.
The problem was that none of my previously published posts in the German-food category have cover-worthy photos. In fact, visually, they are some of my worst.
I figured I needed some new material, and soft pretzels seemed like the way to go. So I set to work developing a paleo soft-pretzel recipe.
And y'all . . . this was no easy task.
My first try was so gross that Monster Daddy's face twisted and contorted trying to choke it down. I literally spit it out--but somehow most of the monsters liked them and ate the whole batch.
Attempt number two was markedly improved--or so I thought. This time the monsters could barely choke them down, and their dad was afraid to try.
We tried simple yeast-free versions, varying combos of paleo starches, flours, and fats, different amounts of baking soda in the boiling water, and different amounts of time in the boil.
I was beginning to think this idea just wasn't going to work out--not in time for this year's Oktoberfest, anyway. But then, in what I swore would be my final attempt for a while, we struck golden-brown-and-delicious!
I'm not gonna sugarcoat it: it's a bit of a project. But if you like the kind of project that ends with the most delicious, paleo, gluten-free soft pretzels imaginable, what's a few extra steps?
This is a recipe you should definitely make when you want your house to smell like fresh-baked, yeasty goodness. In fact, you may want to go outside and water the garden or pickup a curbside delivery while you wait for these to cool, just so you can come back in and be smacked in the nostrils with fragrant, pretzel-y deliciousness.
Note 1: You will have two pans of pretzel bites, but these are best baked one pan at a time. I recommend cutting and boiling half the bites, then doing the egg-wash and salt and baking those, then repeating with the remaining half while the first pan is in the oven.
Note 2: Full-size pretzels are achievable with this recipe, but they are definitely more of a challenge to execute well. For full-size pretzels, roll out 8 logs to about ¾-inch thickness, twist into pretzels, and increase bake time by about 3-4 minutes.
I let these go a little too long in the oven, but they were actually still super delicious. Also, in my experience it's better to ere on the side of a minute or two over rather than a minute or two under with these so they don't turn out gluey.
Just keep in mind that gluten-free yeast doughs can be a little more delicate than their traditional counterparts since they don't have that network of gluten proteins providing structure. The xanthan gum helps compensate for this a little. Still, shaping full-sized pretzels might not be the best task for kiddos or unexperienced/impatient bakers because the dough is pretty hard to keep together long enough to shape, let alone transfer to and from the baking-soda boil. If you do choose to go this route, it helps to roll out and shape one pretzel at a time and then invert it into your hand, carefully peeling the parchment or silicone mat off the back (rather than trying to lift the shaped pretzel) before carefully dropping it into the boiling water.
Full-sized or bite-sized, these paleo, gluten-free soft pretzels are wonderful dipped in a "cheesy" spread and are best served warm. For best results, eat them the day you make them; if you must make ahead, warm in the oven before serving.
Here's what you'll need:
For the dough:
1 1/4 cassava flour
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1 T baking powder
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp xanthan gum (to help provide structure)
1 cup warm water
3 T olive oil
2 T honey
1 large egg
1 tsp fine sea salt
For boiling and baking:
about 10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten with about 1 tsp water
coarse salt (I used Celtic grey salt, but course kosher salt would be just fine)
Here's what you'll do:
If your oven has a “proof” setting, turn that on. Otherwise, preheat the oven to its lowest setting and then turn it off right before proofing.
To make the dough, add dry ingredients (cassava flour-xanthan gum) to the bowl of a stand mixer and thoroughly combine on low speed with the paddle attachment.
In a small bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the wet ingredients (water-egg).
With the mixer on low, slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture. Increase speed to medium, and mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. Then beat in the salt. Dough will be pretty sticky and almost like a thick cake batter.
Transfer the dough to a large, well-greased bowl heavily coated with olive oil, reach down to the bottom, and flip the dough over so the top is now coated in oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and proof in the warm oven for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.
Add 2 ½ quarts water and ⅔ cup baking soda to a 4-quart stock pot, and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, turn proofed dough out onto a silicone mat or large piece of parchment paper. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.
At this point, if you want to make large pretzels, roll each piece into a ½-inch log and GENTLY lift and twist into the pretzel shape. Otherwise, roll each piece into a 1-inch log and cut into 6 equal pieces.
For large pretzels, CAREFULLY add ONE at a time to the boiling water and CAREFULLY remove with a very large spatula after about 10 seconds, transferring to one of the prepared baking sheets. For pretzel bites, carefully add about 4 pieces at a time to the boiling water and use a spatula or slotted spoon to carefully transfer to one of the prepared baking sheets. It may be helpful to have a paper towel handy to wipe up any extra water that drips on the pan. You don’t want soggy pretzel bites!
Use a fork to beat up the final egg with 1 tsp water, and use a pastry brush to lightly brush each boiled pretzel bite with the egg wash, being careful not to let it pool around the bottom–a ring of baked egg is not what we are going for here!
Finish the prepped pretzel bites off with a sprinkling of coarse salt, and bake one pan at a time at 400 degrees F for 12-13 minutes, or about 16-17 minutes for full-sized pretzels.
For the printable recipe PDF click here.