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.
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)
- Rock Salt
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They taste good warm, but better when cooled and crisped.