I have been to Germany several times now, mostly visiting my husband’s family. In the morning, they often spoil us with warm Pretzels, a selection of cold cuts and cheeses. When on holiday, they are the best thing that you could ever want accompanied by a cup (or two!) of strong drip coffee.
I was recently reminiscing about warm pretzels in the morning. Up till now, I have not found fresh German-style pretzels here in Budapest so I decided to make my own at home. This was the first time I made my own pretzels. The process is a bit lengthy, there are a couple of steps to follow but they are simple and straightforward. I am not sure I will be making these pretzels at home very often. However, I am glad I made them and I know that the result is very close to the traditional ones.
Commercially, the pretzels are soaked in a lye solution before baking to achieve the traditional dark crust which is synonymous with them. However, this can be quite dangerous as it can cause nasty burns. Instead, I am using a mixture of water and bicarbonate of soda, with the end result being close enought to the ones commercially made. They are also traditionally sprinkled with coarse salt.
The soft pretzels are best eaten fresh on the day they are baked. Otherwise, you can place them in the oven for a couple of minutes and eat them warm.
German Soft Pretzels
Soft and chewy German-style pretzels
- For the dough
- 250g plain flour
- 150g lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp butter, soft
- 1 1/2 tsp soft dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt For the dipping
- 1.5l water
- 60g bicarbonate of soda For the finish
- 1 egg, beaten
- Coarse sea salt
- In a small bowl combine the water, yeast and sugar together. Mix and set it aside for at least 10 minutes or until frothy.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt. Cut the butter into very small cubes and rub it into the flour. Make a well in the centre.
- Pour the yeast mixture into the well. Gradually incorporate enough flour from the sides to form a paste in the centre. Dust some flour from the sides over the paste. Cover with tea towel and leave for around 1 hour.
- Mix the rest of the flour to form a dough. Knead it for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Take a clean bowl and lightly grease it with any flavourless oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let it rest in a warm place for at 1.5-2 hours or until it doubles in size.
- Knock the air out and divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Take one piece of dough, form a rectangle roughly 10cm x 12cm. Roll it up tightly along the long side, then roll the dough to about 30cm long. Set aside and repeat with the other pieces.
- Starting again from the first piece of dough, roll it out to about double the size (60cm) in length. Form the dough into the pretzel shape and place it on a baking paper on a baking tray. Repeat with the other pieces. It is important to leave enough space between one pretzel and the other as they will rise and spread a bit.
- Cover the tray with plastic wrap and set it aside to let the dough rise for about an hour.
- After an hour, place the tray in the freezer for 30 minutes to let the dough firm up.
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- In the meantime, pour the water and bicarbonate of soda in a large saucepan. Bring this to a boil and turn the heat off. Dip the pretzels one at a time, 10 seconds on each side.
- Place the pretzels on a baking paper on a baking tray. Again, leave space between one pretzel and the other as they will rise during baking. Brush the pretzels with the egg and sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt on top. Using a sharp knife, slash the sides of the pretzels.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 12-14 minutes.
- Place on a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.