Nothing says party like wreath-shaped food! A soft, braided pretzel is stuffed with ham and cheddar cheese before being topped with everything bagel seasoning and baked until perfectly brown. Serve with your favorite beer cheese dip or Dusseldorf mustard for a perfect party appetizer.
Happy New Year, Frydae Friends! It’s been a quiet holiday season on the blog which was not my intention at all. I had big plans for Frydae in December but the holidays got the better of me and one week off turned into a month off! Not my best decision but I’m feeling refreshed and ready to share lots of yummy, new recipes with you in 2020 starting with this Bavarian Stuffed Pretzel Wreath. It’s filled with ham and cheese and seasoned with everything bagel seasoning. YUM!!!
Now, fair warning, this stuffed pretzel wreath is a monster. It’s huge and meant to serve a crowd. So if you’re planning on serving only 4 or 5 people, feel free to cut the recipe in half. Otherwise, clear your counter and prepare for big Bertha because she’s going to be large and in charge!
How to Make Bavarian Pretzel Dough
The initial steps of making this pretzel dough are not unlike those for preparing other yeast-raised bread doughs. Where it gets fun is right before baking where you get to put on your science hat and play with food-grade lye. It’s the German secret for getting that super dark pretzel color and flavor. But we’ll talk more about that later.
Step 1: Mix the Pretzel Dough
To begin, combine warm water, instant yeast, and brown sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let the yeast rest (bloom) undisturbed for 5 minutes before adding the remaining dough ingredients. Note that it’s important for the water to be between 110°F and 115°F to ensure proper and optimal yeast activation. I use a simple food thermometer to test the water temperature before adding the water to the yeast.
After 5 minutes, add the melted butter, beer, salt and flour to the stand mixer. Begin mixing on your mixer’s lowest speed, with a dough hook attachment, for a few minutes. Then, once all of the flour has been loosely incorporated, bump up the mixer to medium and continue to mix for an additional 2-3 minutes. The dough is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl and forms a ball. The dough should be soft, stretchy and moist, but not sticky. If it’s sticky, add a little flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until the right consistency is reached.
Step 2: Proof the Pretzel Dough
Once the dough is mixed, transfer it to a clean, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a warm place to proof for at least 1 hour until doubled in size. I use the proofing setting on my oven, but a warm, sunny window in your kitchen will also work.
Step 3: Mix the Pretzel Filling
While the dough proofs, you can mix the pretzel filling. In a large bowl, mix together softened cream cheese with the grated cheddar, beer, mustard and honey. Feel free to try other cheeses in this pretzel. I bet swiss or gruyere would also be AMAZING in this pretzel. Once blended, fold in the diced ham. I had leftovers of this Slow Cooker Root Beer Ham from the holidays, but you could dice up any leftover baked ham or deli ham you have on hand. Once everything is mixed, set aside until the pretzel dough is ready to be stuffed.
Step 3: Stuffing the Pretzel
After proofing, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into three equal portions. Use a food scale so you can be precise. Starting with one ball of dough, begin to shape a long rope with your hands. Roll the dough out to about 30 inches long. Yep, you heard me—30 inches long. Next, use a rolling pin to flatten the rope into a long, oblong rectangle. It will end up being about 36 inches long and 3 inches wide.
Note, If you cut the recipe in half, adjust the length of your dough accordingly— probably 18-24 inches once rolled out.
Now it’s time to stuff the pretzel. Using your hands, crumble the ham and cheese filling down the length of the rolled out dough. Leave about 1/2 inch of bare dough on all sides of the filling. Next, gently begin to wrap the bare dough over and around the filling. Use your fingers to press and seal any seams together to minimize any filling from leaking out while baking. repeat this process with the other two balls of dough.
Step 4: Shaping and Braiding the Pretzel Wreath
Once filled, you should be left with three equal-sized ropes of stuffed pretzel dough. At this point, you can braid the three strands together into a basic braid. Feel free to keep the braid a little loose and not too tight. This will give the dough plenty of room to puff and rise while baking.
Once braided, transfer the dough to a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape the dough into a circular wreath and carefully tuck the ends of the dough between the strands of dough as best you can.
If you’re not into wreaths, I will say that you can get creative and mold the dough into whatever shape you wish. Cut the rope down and shape into pretzel rods or shape into traditional pretzels. There are no rules here.
Step 5: Final Proofing
Once shaped, cover the wreath loosely with plastic and let proof again for 15-20 minutes in a warm place. While the pretzel wreath proofs, you can preheat the oven and also prepare the egg wash and lye bath.
Step 6: Brush with Food-Grade Lye
Alright, it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Let’s play with hazardous chemicals—yay! While fun, I cannot stress enough the importance of being safe when handling food-grade lye. This stuff is dangerous so please wear rubber gloves, long sleeves and even eye protection when handling the lye. Trust me, you don’t want to splash this stuff on your skin—it BURNS. So please, be careful.
For the lye bath, you’ll want to mix 1/2 cup of COLD water with 1 1/2 teaspoons of food-grade lye. When mixing, make sure you mix it in a heavy, plastic container with a plastic spoon. Because lye is caustic, you don’t want to mix it in or with anything glass or metal.
Once mixed, carefully brush the pretzel wreath, using a pastry brush, with the lye-solution. Brush enough to lightly saturate all sides and crevices of the dough. After brushing, you can carefully dispose of any leftover lye solution by dumping it down the sink while running COLD water.
Now you may be wondering, where on earth do I get this dangerous stuff? Food-grade lye (sodium hydroxide) isn’t something you’ll find at most grocery stores, but it’s readily available on Amazon and other specialty food retailers. Be sure to check that it’s food-grade so it’s safe for human consumption.
Step 7: Baking Bavarian-Style Stuffed Pretzels
Once you’ve cleared the area of all hazardous materials, brush the dough with a simple egg wash. This will give the pretzel a beautiful shine once it’s done baking. Finally, sprinkle the wreath with pretzel salt and everything bagel seasoning before transferring it to a preheated oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes. The wreath is done when it has turned a dark, warm brown color and is firm to the touch. The wreath should sound also hollow when tapped with your finger.
Remove the pretzel from the oven and immediately brush with melted butter. I like to garnish the pretzel with fresh, chopped dill and then serve it with a beer cheese dip or assorted German-style mustards.
Food-grade Lye vs Baking Soda for Pretzels
I know what you’re thinking: this stuffed pretzel wreath sounds amazing, but you’ve terrified me of working with lye. Don’t worry, if you’re afraid of working with lye, or simply don’t want to buy it just for this recipe, there is an alternative option. Baking soda is a common alternative to lye when making pretzels. I’m a big fan of lye only because I think you get better color and flavor. I also married into a super German family so doing it the “right German way” seemed obligatory.
How to Make a Baking Soda Pretzel Solution
To use a baking soda solution instead, heat 1/2 cup of water in the microwave until hot and then carefully add 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water. Carefully, the water will fizz. Mix until dissolved and then brush the wreath generously with the solution—I go over every bit of the wreath twice when using this solution. Follow with the egg wash solution and then bake the same as if you were using the lye solution. Please note the flavor and color will not be quite as intense as if you used the lye solution. The exterior will also not be as crisp either so baking times may need to be adjusted slightly depending on your oven.
Wow! This was a long post. Please don’t let that scare you away from trying this glorious stuffed pretzel wreath. There are a lot of steps, but overall, it’s easy, fun and super delicious. I’m planning on making one of these bad boys to serve friends at our Super Bowl party coming up in a few weeks. Nothing says party food like a wreath-shaped pretzel—am I right?!
If you make this Bavarian Ham and Cheese Stuffed Pretzel, be sure to tag me on social media. It’s @frydaeblog and #frydaeblog absolutely everywhere! Also, leave it a rating and let me know your thoughts below in the comments. If you try out other fillings, let me know. I love to hear how my readers are using creativity in the kitchen to make my recipes their own.
If you love this recipe and want more bread stuffed with layers of flavor, try these Pumpkin Blueberry Morning Buns next!
Bavarian Ham & Cheese Stuffed Pretzel Wreath
- 3/4 cup warm water, approximately 115°F
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 3 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 cups German-style beer, room temperature
- 3/4 cup salted butter, melted
- 2 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 7 cups all-purpose flour
- 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1.5 cups cheddar cheese, grated
- 1.5 cups diced ham, leftover or deli slices
- 2 tablespoons Dusseldorf mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons German-style beer
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons food-grade lye
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 tablespoon everything bagel seasoning
- 1 tablespoon course pretzel salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 tablespoon fresh dill, optional
Make Pretzel Dough and Filling
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine yeast, warm water and brown sugar. Stir to combine and then let the yeast bloom undisturbed for 5 minutes.Next, add the melted butter, beer and salt to the mixer. Stir on low for thirty seconds and then begin to gradually add the flour. Mix on low for 3-5 minutes until all of the flour is combined and then mix on your mixer's medium speed for 2-3 minutes until the dough is smooth and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the bowl.Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball. Place into a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough proof for approximately 1 hourWhile the dough proofs, make the filling. In a large bowl mix together the cream cheese, honey, Dusseldorf mustard and beer. Stir until blended and then fold in the grated cheddar cheese and diced ham. Set aside.
Stuff and Shape
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.Next, divide the pretzel dough into three equal balls. Use a food scale so you can be precise. Then, take one ball of dough and roll out the dough into a long rope, about 18 inches long. Using a rolling pin, roll the rope flat by starting in the middle of the rope and rolling the dough towards the right end. Repeat on the left side of the rope. You should be left with an oblong, flattened rope shape that's about 24 inches long.Now, use your hands to crumble one-third of the pretzel filling along the length of the flattened dough rope, concentrating it in the center. You want to leave about 1/4" of dough exposed on either side of the filling.Use your fingers to pinch the dough together around the filling to form a filled log of pretzel dough. Seam both ends as well and then gently roll the log smooth to fully encase the filling in the pretzel dough. Set aside the filled dough rope and repeat this process with the two remaining portions of dough and filling. Once you have three fully-formed filled dough ropes, begin to braid them together. After braiding, you should be left with a large, single woven strand of dough.Transfer the braid to a parchment-lined baking sheet and then curve the braid into a circular wreath shape. Carefully weave and tuck the ends of the dough together to create a seamless wreath design. Cover the wreath with plastic and then let rise in a warm place for 15-20 minutes.
Brush with Lye and Egg Wash
- While the dough proofs, make an egg wash by beating together with a large egg with a few teaspoons of water in a small ramekin. Set aside.Next, prepare the lye bath for the pretzel by mixing 1/2 cup of ice-cold water with 1 1/2 teaspoons of lye. Do not use warm or hot water. Take extreme care when preparing and handling the lye mixture. Lye is a strong alkali that can cause burns if splashed onto the skin. Wear protective gloves, long sleeves and safety glasses when handling food-grade lye. When the lye mixture is ready, uncover the proofed wreath and gently brush the entire wreath—top, sides and center—with the solution. Following the lye, brush the entire wreath evenly with egg wash. Finally, sprinkle the wreath with pretzel salt and everything bagel season.
Bake the Pretzel
- Place into a preheated 425°F oven on the center rack. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the pretzel has a deep brown color. It should feel crisp and sound hollow when tapped.Upon removing the pretzel from the oven, immediately brush with melted butter and garnish with fresh dill, if desired. Serve warm with your favorite beer cheese dip or assorted German mustards.
To use a baking soda solution instead of lye: Heat 1/2 cup of water in the microwave until hot and then carefully add 2 teaspoons of baking soda to the water. Carefully, the water will fizz. Mix until dissolved and then brush the wreath generously with the solution. Follow with the egg wash solution and then bake as directed above. Please note the flavor and color will not be quite as intense as if you used the lye solution. The exterior will also not be as crisp either so baking times may need to be adjusted slightly depending on your oven.