Authentic German Pretzels

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IMG_20140729_214211[1] 31/07/2014

I’ve never been to Germany but would love to. The closest I have got is when the German market sets up in my friend’s home town of Birmingham at Christmas. I always strategically plan to visit him at this time so I can sample the fresh waffles, bratwurst, and beer on offer (and for a catch up, obviously). The pretzels served up there are as authentic as they come. This recipe comes pretty close and you can have fun experimenting with shapes too.  

It’s a good idea to start this recipe a day in advance to let your starter develop a really yeasty flavour.

Ingredients:

For The Dough:

  • 500 g Plain White Flour
  • 500 g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 260 ml Milk (lukewarm)
  • 260 ml Water (lukewarm)
  • 80 g Butter (unsalted)
  • 1 tbsp Dark Brown Sugar or Malt Extract
  • 14 g Fast Action Dried Yeast (or 42g fresh if using)
  • 1 tbsp Rock Salt (ground)

For The Finishing Solution:

  • 1 L Water
  • 3 tbsp Baking Soda (or lye if using)

For Topping:

  • Rock Salt

 

Method:

  1. Add 100g of flour, all the yeast and the water into a bowl. Whisk, cover with cling-film and leave in a warm place for 5 hours + to create the yeast flavour. After that, add the rest of the flour, salt, milk, sugar/malt extract and melted butter. Mix and kneed the mixture to make a firm dough (around 10 minutes) and leave for approx 1 and a half hours or until a point pushed in gentle springs back.
  2. When ready, knock the dough back and start forming shapes. Roll the dough out to be a long (40 cm) rope with the middle 5cm bulged to a diameter of around 3 cm, tapering to the ends being around 0.75 cm thick. Bring the two ends together about 5 cm in, overlap them, twist, and bring back to go over the main body. Almost like tying a knot. Leave for 30 minutes uncovered in a warm room to rise and develop.
  3. In the meantime bring the 1 litre of water to the boil in a large pot and add the baking soda. If you can find food grade sodium hydroxide (lye) use that at 3-4 tbs per litre, but be VERY careful and DO NOT let children near it. ALWAYS wear gloves and eye protection, or do as I do and go nowhere near it!
  4. Once the dough has risen, place the trays next to a cold window with some wind blowing. This develops a skin on the pretzels which gives that special chewy texture. Once done drop the shaped dough into the boiling solution (one at a time) until they float (about 5 second), fish out with a fish slice (or similar) and lay on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with sea salt (lightly at first, you find your own taste preference later) and slash the dough to a depth of around 1cm in the thick part at the top-back. If you want to top with cheese, leave off the salt, and add the cheese once the pretzel is baked, so 5 to 10 minutes extra in the oven later.
  5. Add the baking sheets to the 200C oven for around 16-20 minutes, until a nice deep bready brown is seen on the pretzels. Don’t go for gold or chestnut, go for brown, the flavour goes with it!
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They taste good warm, but better when cooled and crisped.
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