I’ve been trying to work out how to make proper German-style pretzels for a couple of years now. They’re just perfect with a pint — filling, salty and, well, German.
Today, I finally nailed it.
There are lots of recipes around and I tried most of them, but none quite seemed to do the trick. The texture was never quite right – it should be chewy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Our recent trip to Germany only made me more determined to crack the problem — I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until our next holiday to have another pretzel!
Boak did manage to find authentic pretzels in a German bakery on the Brompton Road and it was inspecting one of those that helped me perfect my recipe.
Almost any fluffy white dough will do. The tricks are all in the finishing. Specifically, the shape you roll the dough into before you make the famous pretzel shape; the fact that you boil it before baking; coating it with a solution of bicarbonate of soda [UPDATE: use about one level teaspoon of bicarb]; and slashing the top with a knife.
Recipe after the jump.
400 grams of white bread flour
1.5 teaspoons of salt
1 tablespoon/1 sachet of dried yeast
150 millilitres of warm water
75 millilitres of milk
Bicarbonate of soda
Mix together the flour, salt, water, milk and yeast — I did it in my Magimix with the dough hook, which took about 30 seconds.
Knead the ball of dough (which should be soft and elastic) with a little more flour and then put it in an oiled mixing bowl covered with a teatowel. Leave it to rise for about 30-40 minutes.
When it’s doubled in size, knock it back, knead it a bit more, and then put it back to rise for another 30 minutes.
Get a large pan of water boiling and put the oven on to 190 degrees centigrade.
When the dough is ready, take it out of the bowl and cut it into about six equal pieces. Cover them with a teatowel.
Take one piece and roll it out into a kind of sausage shape. Don’t flour the surface — that will stop you rolling it properly. Once you’ve got a cylinder, start rolling it so that there is a bulge in the middle, with both ends tapering out to about 1.5 centimetres in thickness. The whole thing should be around 30-40 centimetres in length.
Then take the two ends, bring them into the centre, and fix them to the bulge in the centre with a bit of water.
When you’ve shaped six pretzels, boil them one or two at a time, for about a minute each. When they come out of the water, put them on paper towels to dry.
Make a solution from the bicarbonate of soda and about 100 millilitres of warm water and thoroughly oil a baking sheet. Then dip each pretzel into the solution and put them on the baking tray. Sprinkle them with rock salt (or pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds — whatever you fancy).
Then, with a sharp knife, cut a line a centimetre or so deep across the thick part of the pretzel. This makes them split, and makes them look like a proper pretzel.
Then put the tray in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until they’re dark golden brown.
When they come out of the oven, let them cool for an hour or two, which will help the outsides harden, giving that familiar chewy-but-fluffy texture that makes pretzels so satisfying.
If you try it, let me know what you think.
PS -Germanophiles going to GBBF may want to note that the K&S bakery, which specialises in German breads, cakes and has the most authentic pretzels in London, is just down the road from Earl’s Court.