Saturday, 25 August 2007
The Pretzel Endeavour
Pretzels, for me, always bring back fond memories of my rather frequent trips to Germany back in the '90s. I used to travel to Munich and Hanover on work and it was in Munich (or rather Munchen) that I was first introduced to the Brezen, as pretzels are called in Germany. My prior experience of pretzels was the tiny, dried, crispy kind and not the soft, baked variety.
I've always wanted to make pretzels. Why? Mainly because my son and daughter both love the pretzels at Aunty Annies (That's a franchise and not a relative...) Also, its the kind of thing that's nice to be able to make - especially for bragging rights down at the pub. I mean, imagine if I was back in Germany, scarfing down a huge Brezen while simultaneously gulping down a Dunkles (Dark Beer). I could then say (in a german accent):
"Ja,Ja... Zis Brezen is very good, but perhaps next veek you come to my house and I vill also make you zie Brezen...."
I can imagine a few large mugs of beer dropping to the floor....!!
Anyway, once I learnt that the roots of the Daring Bakers was started by a Pretzel challenge issued by Ivonne of creampuffs in venice I decided I was going to try and do it as well.
So this morning, I printed out the recipe and decided to get my hands stuck into kneading.
Now I immediately ran into a problem. 500F equates to 260C and my trusted oven only goes up to 240C! Never mind, I would just set it at its maximum. Next I didn't have any Kosher Salt. Never mind, just use some normal salt. Wait a minute, why not use my Rosemary Salt mix? That might taste better. So I did.
Here's the recipe:
Adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.
For the dough:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 package (2-1/4 tsp.) instant yeast
1 cup warm water (you may need a little more)
For the pretzel topping:
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
3 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1.Combine all the dough ingredients in a large bowl with your hands. Work the ingredients together until you can form a ball. If the dough is very dry, add a bit more warm water until it comes together. The dough will look messy, but don’t worry about it.
2.Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin kneading by pushing the dough away with the heel of your hand, and then folding it back in onto itself. Push the dough away again and then fold back in. Continue this motion, working the dough until it’s smooth. This should take anywhere from 8 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can knead the dough in a mixer with your dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes).
3.Once the dough is done, sprinkle some flour on the dough and put it in a large, oiled bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes to an hour. It will rise considerably.
4.Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
5.Dissolve the sugar in the warm water and set aside.
6. Divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece out into a long rope that’s roughly 24 inches in length. (Don’t make it too long or your pretzels will be too thin.)
7. Taking hold of the ends of the rope, cross the rope over itself to form a circle with about 4 to 5 inches on each end that are sticking out. Twist the ends over themselves and secure each end on either side of the pretzel.
8. Carefully dip the pretzel in the water and then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.
9. Sprinkle the pretzels with the kosher salt and let them rest for about 15 minutes.
10. Put the pretzels in the oven for 6 minutes, then rotate the trays and bake for an additional 6 minutes. Keep an eye on the pretzels so that they don’t burn.
11. Remove the pretzels from the oven and immediately brush them with the butter. Keep brushing them with butter until you’ve used it all.
I must say I was rather surprised at how well the pretzels turned out. I should have made the 'dough rope' a little thinner and longer. I should also have baked it a bit longer to allow it to brown more but this wasn't a bad effort for a first try. The pretzels were delicious too - rather crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
I scarfed one down as soon as it cooled down and would have had another except that we were rushing off to lunch. The lovely wife raised an eyebrow in surprise as she took a bite as I don't think she was expecting that I'd be able to make such delicious pretzels.
Now all I have to do is to book my flight to Munchen so I can brag about being able to make Brezen...!!