Pretzels are a popular snack or side dish all over Germany, and come in many local varieties. Learn how to make classic and authentic German Brezeln with this easy recipe from the BBC Good Food website.
A basket of pretzels. Photo: Manfred Richter via Pixabay
Authentic German pretzels (via BBC Good Food)
Makes 8-10 pretzels
Ingredients: For the dough:
1kg plain flour
260ml milk (lukewarm)
260ml water (lukewarm)
80g butter (unsalted)
1 tbsp malt extract (liquid or dried, or brown sugar)
2 tsp fast-action dried yeast
2 tbsp salt (unrefined)
For the finishing solution:
1 litre water
3 tbsp baking powder
For the topping:
Unrefined rock or sea salt
Step 1: Add 100g of flour, all the yeast and the water into a bowl. Mix, cover with cling-film and leave in a warm place for a minimum of 5 hours. Then add the rest of the flour, salt, milk, malt extract and melted butter. Mix and knead the mixture to make a firm dough (around 10 minutes) and leave for approx 1 and a half hours or until it springs back when prodded.
Step 2: When ready, knock the dough back and start forming shapes. The easiest is to make batons around 2cm thick. If feeling adventurous, try the traditional shape. Roll the dough out to 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.
Step 3: In the meantime bring the 1.5 litres of water to the boil in a large pot (around 20cm diameter) and add the baking powder.
Step 4: Once the dough has risen, place the trays next to a cold window with some wind blowing. A fan can be used if there is no breeze. This gives the pretzels their special chewy texture. Once done, drop the shaped dough into the boiling solution (one at a time) until they float (about 5 seconds), 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.
Step 5: Add the baking sheets to the 200C oven for around 16 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!
Step 6: Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. The pretzels can be eaten hot or cold. Great for eating with beer, on the go, with friends, or cut open and used as a base for other toppings.