To a Bavarian like me who lives a Brezen-less life outside of Bavaria, this is a sight for sore eyes.
Actually, I’m quite lucky that I took this photo. It’s a little fuzzy, and I wanted to take another, but the phone rang. When I came back from my phone call there were no Pretzels left to photograph!! My 5-year-old ate them all!! And yes, I do feed the boy LOL
He did leave us the Laugensemmeln (lye rolls) and the Domspatzen (little birds made from this dough) – but all the Pretzels were gone. Except for the one I snagged fresh out of the oven for myself! YUM!!
His father then finished off the rest LOL
Both my men, but especially the boy just love, love, love fresh bread of any kind and the Bavarian Brezen rank right up there with his most favorite. He had been camping out in front of the oven when he realized what I was baking!
Anyway, here is how I made them.
First let me say that the dough itself is nothing terribly special. The huge difference to other recipes and what makes this as delectable as it is, is the lye bath. And it is the lye bath that will never compare Bavarian Brezen to other soft pretzels. Even the hot baking soda bath methods used in American recipes don’t quite compare. They make nice Pretzels, don’t get me wrong, but they are NOT like these! This is the real deal!
It’s not just the difference in color. The lye bath imparts a subtle, very thin crunch and a very particular cracking of the crust, as well as a subtle but very distinctive taste. As well as a slight sheen.
So, first of all, get yourself some Food Grade Sodium Hydroxide Lye. I got this one – it works well and it will last me a good long time!
Now let’s get down to it!
This recipe makes about 8 Pretzels.
For the dough:
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 oz granulated yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp shortening (I use Spectrum Organic Shortening)
2.5 – 3 cups flour (I use King Arthur Bread Flour)
Pretzel or kosher salt for sprinkling
For the lye bath:
2 quarts of water
To prepare it, get a sealable container, a thick tupperware type bowl like mine for example, and fill it with 1/2 a gallon of cold water. Do NOT use a metal bowl! Glass is ok though! You need it to be wider than it’s deep so you can easily and quickly dip the dough.
Wearing latex gloves and protective eye gear, add the pellets, stirring carefully with a metal spoon until the pellets are dissolved.
They have a tendency to form this crystalized structure at the bottom. Break it up and keep stirring until it is all dissolved.
Careful, the contents can get HOT!
Seal the container until you are ready to use it.
This stuff is not only poisonous, it is very caustic.
So, please be extra careful and take precautions! PLEASE keep it far away from children! Flush any unintentional contact with plenty of water.
You soap makers and olive picklers out there know the drill, but it can never be said enough – be careful around this stuff!
Now let’s get started:
1. Warm the milk a little (30-40 seconds in the microwave usually does the job) and dissolve the sugar and yeast into it. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and see if bubbles form. It confirms that your yeast is active.
2. Add the liquids to a mixer with a kneading hook if you have one. Or add to a big bowl with a wooden spoon and give it some elbow grease.
Add salt, shortening and 2 cups of flour. Start the mixer and let it all knead together. Add enough flour to form a dough that doesn’t stick to the sides anymore and is nice, uniform and elastic. It can take a total of anywhere from 2.5 cups to 3 cups.
3. In the microwave, boil a small bowl of water. Or if you prefer, boil some water on the stove top, place a lid on your boiling pot until the lid is nice and hot and wet on the underside. Remove the mixer bowl from the mix and place the hot, wet lid on top. Let the dough rest for a few minutes.
Or, back to the microwave method. Quickly open the microwave, place the bowl of dough in and shut the door. Again, let the dough rest for a few minutes in the warm, moist environment. It relaxes the gluten and will make forming the pretzels much easier.
4. Remove the dough, knead through one more time by hand. The dough shouldn’t stick to your counter top. Divide into 8 equal pieces.
5. Roll a long snake, thicker in the middle than on the ends. This needs to be MUCH longer though before you form the pretzel shape.
I forgot to take a photo of the shape and length of dough , so here’s a photo from a bakery, courtesy of google images It gives you an idea where you need to be :
Then form a Pretzel shape.
If you’d like to make some little lye birds, here is how.
Roll a snake, like before, even though this time you’re keeping the thick part more towards the front. Like so:
Then you make an actual knot in the dough.
Now pinch the head part into a beak and make a cut in the tail and separate it a little.
6. Let the Pretzels rise for about 1/2 hr in a warm, moist place. I usually turn on the oven to it’s lowest setting, turn it off and place a bowl of water in there with the Pretzels.
7. If you haven’t made your lye bath yet, do it now!
8. When the half hour is up, remove the Pretzels from the oven and preheat to 400 F.
9. Make sure your baking sheets are either lined with silicon or baking parchment. Once the dough is dipped, it wants to stick to anything and everything! Put on your safety gear, especially the gloves!
10. Dip your risen dough shapes quickly but carefully into the lye bath. I find that it works best to never quite let go of them. Dip them top down first, let them be for about 2 seconds, turn them around briefly and scoop them out, placing them immediately on the baking tray. These are going to be REALLY fragile, so be gentle.
11. Sprinkle them all with pretzel salt.
12. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until you get that deep brown color.
Remove from oven, place on cooling rack, wait as long as you possibly can and until you basically you don’t burn your mouth anymore eating them.
Let the feeding commence:
That’s Max on #4 … he slowed down some I guess