Hi hi! We are back from the most amazing 10 days in Canada with my family - we were staying at my Poppa’s house on a lake on Vancouver Island, and it was just the best. We had some full on family time (my family takes full on to the next level in the best way possible), loads of swims in the lake, and all the catch ups. I don’t get to see my family super often as we live so far away from each other (I moved to the other side of the world so it’s totally my fault), so it was so nice to just have some concentrated time with them to hang out and do family stuff.
It kind of sucks to be back now and back to reality, buuuut I’m excited because I have so many fun recipes to share with you! I worked my butt off before we left to get a good backlog of things done, and there’s some really delicious things coming up - in particular, these caramelised onion, goat cheese, and sundried tomato pesto pretzel buns!
I love anything pretzel, which could be to do with my love of chewy bread, but is likely to do with my love of everything salty. If you haven’t made pretzels at home before, they are pretty easy, and super fun to make, and just so, so good. I was initially going to attempt a stuffed pretzel for this recipe, but I tried it once and it was a stage 12 disaster, so after an SOS text to my good friend Erin, I settled on these buns, which really ended up being the best of both worlds, because you can load them up with the filling, giving you a very ideal bun to filling ratio.
I used my standard pretzel dough with a couple of tweaks, but instead of rolling it out and shaping it into a twisty pretzel, I made little rounds of dough which I then added the filling to. These wee dudes are rolled out, given a second rise uncovered to help develop a little skin, and then are given the pretzel treatment - a soak in a baking soda bath, which gives them the golden brown and chew characteristic of a pretzel. They then get given a quick egg wash and a sprinkle with pretzel salt (best stuff ever), before being filled with the most delicious filling.
For the filling I kept it pretty simple - I caramelised off some onions, added in some soft, fresh goat cheese, and then hit it with a burst of flavour by way of Filippo Berio’s Sundried Tomato Pesto. I love their pestos for so many reasons, and always have my pantry stocked with all of the flavours, and the Sundried Tomato played off so well with the other filling ingredients. I love the pesto for giving a super quick and easy flavour burst - I often stir a big spoon of it into pasta sauces, dips, or other little snacky things. It’s just the best. You can check out all their other flavours here - the classic, the spicy tomato, or the tomato ricotta would all go so well in these too. These Pretzel buns would make a perfect light meal, or would be incredible served alongside a soup, or for a little starter or mid day snack. I’m a huge fan, and I hope you are too! x
A few wee tips:
Some pretzel recipes will have you use lye to soak the pretzels in. Giving the pretzels a wee bath in lye (sodium hydroxide) helps to speed up the Maillard reaction, which gives the pretzels that lovely brown colour and chew. However, lye is caustic (alkaline) and you have to take a lot of safety precautions such as safety goggles, so I used something a little less alkaline but still very effective - baked baking soda. Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is moderately alkaline, but baking it produces sodium carbonate, which is slightly more alkaline, so therefore perfect for dipping your pretzels without having to worry about the safety risk of using Lye.
To make baked baking soda: Line a sheet pan with foil, and spread 1 cup of baking soda evenly over it. Bake at 250˚f / 121˚c for one hour, then transfer to an airtight container. This will be enough for four batches of pretzels - you use ¼ cup at a time.
I bake these on silicone mats as I find it is easiest. If you take the pretzels straight out of the water bath and put them directly onto parchment paper, it makes the paper soggy, and it sticks. There are two ways around this - either transfer them onto a wire rack to dry off slightly before you transfer them to the parchment paper, or bake on a silicone mat, in which case you can transfer straight onto the baking sheet because there isn’t a risk of sticking.
I baked these off one tray at a time because my oven can be a little finicky - if you do this too, leave the tray that aren’t baked yet in the fridge, and start the soaking and filling process while the first tray is baking. Most ovens should be fine though - just make sure that you rotate the pans half way through the cooking process.
If you want to make the dough the night before, this dough rises beautifully in the fridge.
Usually the second rise of a bread is done lightly covered - I do my second rise for the pretzels uncovered, which allows them to develop a little bit of a skin, which helps them to keep their structure in the baking soda soak. I also pop them into the fridge for about 15 minutes before I soak them, just to help them hold up nicely once they hit the warm water soak.
Making caramelised onions can kind of be a pain, but I promise that it is worth it! I like to put them on while I’m doing something else in the kitchen and just have them on low on the back of the stove - I always make more than I need as they are so good added into scrambled eggs, a quiche, scones, a dip, etc. They are super versatile and it’s not much more work to make more than you need for one recipe! If you don’t want to make them and you have access to a good store bought onion jam or jarred caramelised onions, then that will work great too.
Make the Caramelised onions with enough time to allow them to cool - I usually need at least 45 minutes to get them properly caramelised, so I like to get them going before I make the dough, and then finish them off while the dough is rising, then spread them out in a shallow container to cool before making into the filling. Alternatively you can make them a day or few days before.
Caramelised Onion, Goat Cheese, and Sundried Tomato Pesto Pretzel Buns
- Makes 10 Pretzel Buns -
135g milk, lukewarm
2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
500g all-purpose flour
2 tsp Kosher Salt
50g butter, at room temperature
130g light beer (Sub with water if you like)
4 Large white onions (about 1500g total), thinly sliced
115g fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
100g Filippo Berio Sundried Tomato Pesto
To Soak: ¼ cup baked baking soda (see notes), plus 6 cups water
Egg wash - 1 egg whisked with 1 Tbsp water
Pretzel Salt to finish (optional)
Fresh Chives to Garnish (optional)
- PROCESS -
Place the lukewarm milk, 1 Tbsp of the sugar, and the yeast in a medium sized bowl, and stir to combine. Leave for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, place the remaining sugar, flour, salt, and butter, and mix briefly to combine.
Add the milk mixture and the beer to the dry ingredients, and mix on low for 2-3 minutes, until the dough begins to come together. Increase the speed to medium, and knead for a further 15-20 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy (it needs a little more kneading than you expect).
Shape the dough into a ball, and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size. This initial rise can also be done in the fridge overnight (see notes).
Turn the dough out onto a work surface (do not flour), and weigh the dough then divide into 10 equal sized balls. Shape each into a ball, then place on the bench under plastic wrap to rest. Keep covered until you are ready to use.
Line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper (see note about baking on parchment paper)
Flatten out each dough ball slightly, then roll into a 4” circle using a rolling pin. Transfer to the prepared sheet. Repeat the rolling process with the other dough balls, leaving enough space between them to accomodate rising (5 on each sheet works well for me)
Rise the dough rounds, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes, or until puffy, then transfer to the fridge for a further 20 minutes.
To make the caramelised onions, place a large frying pan or skillet over medium heat. Add about 2 Tbsp oil, and the onions, stirring to coat. Add a big pinch of salt. Reduce the heat slightly, and continue to cook the onions for a further 45 to 55 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary and stirring every few minutes. Add a little extra oil or water if needed to stop the onions drying out.
The onions are done once they are collapsing, and dark brown in colour. They will have reduced significantly.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
To make the pretzel filling, in a medium bowl, combine 200g of the caramelised onions, the fresh goat cheese, and the Filippo Berio Sundried Tomato Pesto.
Preheat the oven to 475°f / 245°c. In a large, shallow, nonreactive pan (I used an enamelled cast iron skillet), combine ¼ cup baked baking soda and 6 cups of water. Heat until the solution is steaming, then turn off.
Working with one dough round at a time, carefully lift off the baking sheet, and place upside down in the solution. Soak for 10 seconds, then carefully flip over and soak for another. Remove using a slotted spatula or another flat utensil, and place onto the silicone mat lined baking sheet.
Repeat with the rest of the dough rounds.
Using a lightly oiled measuring cup or the back of a round spoon, create an indentation in the middle of each of the dough rounds. Brush the edges of the dough rounds with egg wash, and then sprinkle with pretzel salt (I like to do this before adding the filling because it works out tidier). Add 2 Tbsp filling to the centre of each dough round.
Bake the Pretzel Buns for 10-12 minutes, or until deeply golden brown, rotating the pans once during the baking process if you are baking two trays at once.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before garnishing with the chives.
Best eaten on the day that they are made - however if you are planning on having leftovers, do not add salt to all of them as the salt can make them soggy. Rewarm briefly in the microwave if desired before eating.
Thank you so much to Filippo Berio for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.