The pretzel is an iconic bake and if it just conjures images of those tiny crunchy pre-bagged snacks then you definitely need to try these yourself...
We hope you have all had a great Christmas and a not-too overly inebriated New Year. We thought as a belated present, and if you already miss the festive German baked goodies, we'd share this great pretzel recipe that we use in some form or other at every pop-up we hold.
The pretzel has a disputed history, but most agree they originated in central Europe and have Christian origins. Nowadays, however, the pretzel has become a sign throughout the Germanic countries of the Bakers Guild and have become a favourite bakery item in America. Try this recipe, it is foolproof and requires no prior baking knowledge!
You will need:
For the poaching liquor:
1. Place the butter and water in a pan and place on low heat until the butter melts, leave on the side to cool to blood-temperature. Meanwhile, place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in bowl (preferably of a stand mixer unless you are willing to hand knead the dough). Mix the salt, sugar and yeast through the flour evenly.
2. Mixing the flour mix on low speed with a dough hook (or by hand) add the butter/water mixture, followed by the buttermilk. The dough should come together within 1 to 2 minutes without being overly wet. If you need to add a little extra water to bring it together, add 1-2 tbsps only.
3. Turn the speed on the machine to high and knead for approximately 12 minutes. The dough should be smooth, elastic and warm to the touch. You may need to knead the dough for up to 20 minutes by hand to achieve the same result. Flour the dough 'ball' and place into a large bowl, cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge.
4. After 1.5 hours, the dough will have risen to double the size. At this point, preheat the oven to 200 degrees fan or 220 degrees and combine all of the poaching liquor ingredients into a pot and bring to the boil. While the water is coming to the boil, take your dough out of the fridge and knock it back by hand, back into a smooth 'springy' ball.
5. We usually then use scales to portion the dough into 50g balls before rolling into thin 'sausage' shapes and knotting them into themselves. You could make any shape however, the dough should be firm enough to make plaits, bagels, balls etc.
6. Once you have shaped all of your pretzels, you will need to poach them for 10 seconds on each side in the boiling poaching liquor. You can poach about 5 pretzels at a time, depending on the size of your saucepan. Remove the pretzels from the poaching liquor with a slotted spoon and dab onto a piece of kitchen paper to remove the excess water. Place onto parchment paper lined baking tray, egg wash, add rock salt or sea salt flakes and bake for 16 minutes, turning the tray around after 8 minutes for even colour.
7. Remove the pretzels from the oven and leave to cool slightly, they should be a deep chestnut brown colour due to the Maillard reaction (we will be covering this in an upcoming blog post). Enjoy slathered in butter or eaten traditionally with German sausages and mustard.