For Prosperity, Good Luck, and to start the new year on a sweet note, you need this iconic Pittsburgh New Year’s Eve Pretzel. The most amazing sweetened and pillowy soft dough coated in a creamy glaze and a choice of nonpareils, nuts, or demon seeds (cherries).
Have You Ever Heard Of The New Year’s Eve Pretzel?
If you’ve made (and read) my viral Pork & Sauerkraut post, then you’ve heard me mention the New Year’s Eve Pretzel. That recipe, along with these pretzels is a Pittsburgh classic.
It’s a sweet bread dough that is light, and fluffy with hints of vanilla. You can also add cinnamon, almond extract, Fiori di Sicilia, or even lemon extract to alter the flavor. It’s typically served with coffee, tea, or milk for the kids. And yes, it’s perfect for Breakfast!
Right now, pretty much every bakery and grocery store is selling these. Some are topped with just a glaze while others are dressed up in assorted toppings.
Grab Your Ingredients
I’m pretty sure you have these ingredients in your pantry and fridge. If not, head on over to the store as this recipe is worth the trip!
- Dry Ingredients – all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, instant yeast
- Liquids – scalded milk and water
- Dairy – Eggs and Butter
- Vanilla Bean Paste (though you can use vanilla extract)
- Confectioners’ Sugar
- Heavy Cream
- Toppings – nonpareils, chopped nuts, demon seeds (cherries)
Chef’s Tip About Scalded Milk
In a nutshell, scalded milk is cold milk that’s brought near its boiling point. However, it’s not taken to actual boiling. You can microwave it or heat it on the stove to a temperature of 180F. It’s then removed from the heat and cooled to 110F (medium/room temperature).
The purpose of using it in this recipe is that the scalded milk is needed to help the bread dough rise. Heating it neutralizes the whey protein in it. This, in turn, doesn’t impact the gluten and it ensures the yeast isn’t impacted during the rise.
Watch The Video
This recipe is very forgiving and easy. Mix the dough, let it proof until doubled in size, shape it as a pretzel, allow it to proof again, and bake. I use my Bosch Universal Plus Mixer. I seriously LOVE this mixer! It’s honestly the best home mixer I’ve ever had!
Now since it’s just the two of us, I make 2 smaller ones. One I decorate for New Year’s Eve and another goes into the freezer. You know, in case we need a little extra luck *wink*
Decorate The Pretzel
So I’m a traditionalist when it comes to these. I prefer the white glaze and 873,856 nonpareils, It’s perfect timing for these as I also use them on my Struffoli for Mr. Fantabulous. But you can use other toppings.
- Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla bean paste. You don’t want it thin and runny. I like it a bit thicker so when I pour or spoon it on, it doesn’t run right off. That reminds me, make sure you’re adding the glaze to a completely cooled pretzel.
- Next, add on your toppings. Normally I use the pinch-and-sprinkle method with the nonpareils, but I also found using a spoon to sprinkle them on works as well lightly.
- Allow the glaze to fully set then enjoy!
The New Year’s Eve Pretzel Tradition
From what I was told as a child, it’s a very old tradition stemming from Germany that migrated to at least Pittsburgh. The pretzel is believed to be eaten after the clock has struck midnight so that the person will have prosperity, and good luck, and can start the new year on a sweet note.
Some say it started as a circle for the winter solstice but then the pretzel cross was added to signify the 4 seasons. Eventually, it came in the shape of a true pretzel to mimic how German monks prayed, crossing arms across chests to seek peace, health, and prosperity for villagers.
How To Serve The New Year’s Eve Pretzel
This isn’t like a soft pretzel where you yank pieces off. It’s more cake-ish if you will. So slice it. Think of this as a coffee cake that meets sweet dough.
Recipe Substitutions and Additions
Okay all of you rebels, I got’chu when it comes to this stuff. As I said, the dough is pretty forgiving but it’s still a baked good which means there’s science involved.
- Extracts – swap out the vanilla bean paste for almond extract, Fiori di Sicilia, lemon extract, and so forth
- Heavy Cream – I’ve found that using heavy cream is the best for this glaze however you can use half and half, whole milk, or even a coffee creamer of choice. You just want it to be a thicker liquid.
- Yeast – I prefer to use the Red Start Platinum Instant Yeast (because I hate waiting for yeast to proof) but you can absolutely use regular active dry yeast in place. Just bloom the yeast before making the dough. Find out more about yeast, here.
- Flour – I’ve not tested this using gluten-free flour. However, I believe the King Arthur, Measure for Measure GF flour should work.
- Spices – add 1- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice.
- Dough Additions – Once the dough has risen, before you shape the pretzel you can add chopped nuts, mini chocolate chips, and cinnamon chips. You can also add raisins, dried cranberries, or another dried, chopped fruit. Just add about a 1/2-3/4 of a cup. Knead that into the dough, shape it as the pretzel, and rise again.
Ring In The New Year SweetlyPrint
- 3/4 cups (6 ounces) scalded milk (~180F that is then cooled to 110F)
- 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
- 4 Tablespoons (56.8g) softened butter, unsalted
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) warm water
- 2 1/2 teaspoon (7.75g) instant yeast
- 4–5 cups (480-600g) ap flour*
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 4–5 Tablespoons heavy cream
- Toasted Nuts
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment, add the scalded milk, sugar, vanilla, water, and instant yeast. Give it a quick whisk.
- Add 2 cups of flour, salt, egg, and yolk to the milk mixture. Turn the mixer on low and mix just until barely combined. Add the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough starts to form. Add in the butter and continue to mix until the butter is all combined and the dough is soft and pulls away from the sides. *You may not need all of the flour.
- Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board and give it a few turns to form a smooth ball. Put it into a large, greased bowl and cover. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured board and divide in half.
- Roll each half into a long rope and shape into a pretzel.
- Transfer each pretzel onto a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, cover with lightly sprayed plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 35-45 minutes or until very puffy. Do not overproof.
- Bake at 375 degrees for 15- 20 minutes until golden brown. Take the internal temp as it should read 200F.
- Remove from the oven and immediately transfer the pretzels to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Make the glaze by whisking all of the ingredients together. To the cooled pretzels, pour the glaze overtop and top with nonpareils, cherries, and or nuts.
- Store any leftovers, covered.
The flour measurement will vary based on your ambient temperature and humidity level.
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