Who would have thought that? I tried to bake Pretzels years ago, and I failed miserably. Baking Pretzels, or in German “Laugenbrezel” or in Bavaria “Brezn”, seemed so complicated to me at the time, that I preferred to leave it to the professionals
So I’m a little proud. I can’t stop looking at the pictures of my Pretzels. Aren’t they beautiful? And they taste almost like from the bakery. The thought of making pretzels alone can make you sweat of fear. No matter how wildly I could swirl strands of dough around in the air, I never was able to create perfect pretzels.
I’ve repressed and forgotten all of this, but then again I found myself in the kitchen, kneading and soaking the unbaked pretzels in baking soda, trembling…. and tata – the most beautiful of all pretzels came out of the oven.
Should I do a Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) or Baking Soda soak?
If you don’t want to mess with Food grade Lye or Sodium Hydroxide which requires safety goggles and gloves, you can soak the Pretzels in a prepared Baking Soda soak as below. It will have a very similar results, just follow the procedure below:
From the New York Times about soaking the pretzels in Baking Soda “Just spread a layer of baking soda on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake it at 250 to 300 degrees for an hour. You’ll lose about a third of the soda’s weight in water and carbon dioxide, but you gain a stronger alkali. In order to get that distinctive flavor and deep brown color, pretzel makers briefly dunk the shaped pieces of raw dough in a lye solution before baking them. Baked soda does a much better job of approximating true lye-dipped pretzels. Just dissolve 2/3 cup (about 100 grams) in 2 cups of water, immerse the formed raw pretzels in this solution for three to four minutes, rinse off the excess dipping solution in a large bowl of plain water, and bake”
Shaping then Pretzels:
The homemade Pretzels still fresh and warm plays in a completely different league. I will certainly reap a lot of admiration with my homemade pretzels!
- ½ cup white flour (Pillsbury or King Arthur)
- ¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 4 tbsp lukewarm water
- 1 ¾ cup white flour
- 1/8 cup cold water
- ¼ cup cold milk
- 2 tsp butter
- 2 tsp margarine
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp honey or sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 cups water
- 100g Sodium Hydroxide, food grade (or Baking soda)
- Sea salt for sprinkling
- Knead the ingredients for the pre-dough in a bowl, cover with cling film and put in the fridge overnight to rise.
- The next day, put the remaining ingredients in a bowl and knead with the pre-dough for about 10 minutes.
- The dough should not be sticky, and of course not too dry. It should rather be elastic and have a very smooth, shiny surface.
- When you have achieved the desired result, cover the dough with cling wrap and let it rest for about an hour.
- After the rest period, the dough is dusted with flour and again vigorously kneaded.
- Cover again with cling wrap and let rest for another 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, divide the dough into 7 pieces and roll into 6′ long strings.
- Cover with a kitchen towel and let it relax for about 5 minutes.
- Then roll the strands to a length of approx. 23 cm.
- The ends should be much thinner than the middle pieces.
- Lay the strands in a horseshoe shape. Now place one end over the other, then lay the lower strand diagonally upwards and press it down. It crosses the upper strand. This is then also placed diagonally upwards and pressed down.
- Place the pretzels in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Mix Sodium Hydroxide (lye) or baking soda with 2 cups of water and stir well.
- After the cooling phase, briefly drop the pretzels into the water with lye.
- Remove and let it drip off
- Place the pretzels on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the thick middle part of the pretzels approx. 1/3rd inch deep and pull the gap a little apart.
- Sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Bake the pretzels on the bottom shelf in a preheated oven at 450F for about 10-14 minutes.
The Maundy Thursday (Gründonnerstag) Pretzel or Fasting Pretzel
I remember it was a custom to bake pretzels on Maundy Thursday (Gründonnerstag). The customers came in droves to the bakery to buy the traditional pretzels freshly baked. What does a pretzel have to do with fasting?
From the old custom I find the following thoughts on this interesting: What we know today as a pretzel was originally a fasting pretzel. The looped arms of the pretzel are supposed to hold on to good things and banish bad things. They are a symbol of a prayer position. Perhaps the Maundy Thursday pretzel is reminiscent of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane or of his bonds?
The word pretzel comes from the Latin term for “arm” and was used for the bread with the looped arms. For a long time, the pretzel was mainly eaten during Holy Week. The special shape of the pretzel wants to remind us of the cross of Christ and his passion in the middle of everyday life.
Memories of a bakery owner about 80 years ago: In the week before Easter there was a lot of hustle and bustle in the bakery. The farmers from the village came and brought their own flour and milk in bowls, bakeries added the yeast and making the dough for the pretzels and baking them.
Pretzels were something special for everyone. You couldn’t afford that in everyday life. The smell of freshly baked goods was in the air. It meant additional work and it was natural that every free hand in the bakery should help. It was a special time so close to Easter!