Thursday, December 11, 2014

Traditional German Pretzels

Pretzels, what joyous treat.     
      
I used to make pretzels the easy way. It is delicious, I can assure you. But it lacks character. Something that makes pretzels pretzels. The traditional German pretzels require a dip in lye water. I understand that lye, or chemically known as Sodium hydroxide, lies in grey area. While it is safe in small amount to be digested by human, unless I am German and I own a pretzel geschaft, I do not find the need to go to the store and purchase lye solution.

But in my pursue of authentic pretzels, I read that baked baking soda is a good replacement for lye. You see, lye is alkaline and it affects the Maillard reaction, the  chemical reaction between amino acids and sugars that gives browned foods--as a result of baking and searing-- a certain flavor. Lye bath gives pretzels deep brown crust, crunchy arms and distinctive taste. But remember, not all lye is food grade. You can’t just use lye that is meant or used for soap making. So this is where baking soda comes in. Lower in alkaline, baking soda can act as lye substitute. Not 100%, but near. Near is good than eating soap ingredients.

You can use baking soda, plainly. But if you wanna go further in altering the chemical properties of baking soda to make it very near to the effects lye gives, bake the baking soda in the oven for an hour in 120C. You can bake the baking soda in huge amount and keep it in an air tight canister. It has no expiration date. But I know better than to waste energy for the sake of color.

In short, this is what you get if you use..
-Lye bath: Very deep mahogany, like the color of a bark, superb texture.
-Baked baking soda bath: Deep mahogany, almost like a bark in color, superb texture.
-Baking soda bath: Beautiful dark brown color, superb texture.
-No bath at all: Are you kidding me?

Now that we set the rules straight for the matter of color and texture, we should get to the recipe. You will find many online that do not use beer, like my Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels recipe if you choose to omit beer and in a hurry. But this one, the one with the beer, trust me on this, it is a definite keeper.

Recipe adapted from Pretzel Making at Home
Ingredients
Pretzel dough:
2 1/4tsp instant yeast
120 ml  water
120 ml cold pilsner beer*
1tbs barley malt syrup/dark brown sugar
320gr bread flour
100gr dark rye flour**
5-10gr wheat bran***
2 tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp salt
For the bath:
1/4 cup (baked) baking soda
2 Liter water
--------
Coarse sea salt, for topping***
Note:
*You can use all water should you avoid beer
**You can use all bread flour should you not have dark rye flour
***Optional

Instructions:
-Mix all dry ingredients together, pour water and beer. Knead until the dough is smooth. 
-Refrigerate the dough for at least 8 hours.
-Divide the dough into 8 equal portions


-Shape into pretzels and let them proof around 20 minutes.


-Prepare the baking soda bath by boiling the water and baking soda. When the baking soda already dissolves, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
-Dip each side of the pretzel dough for 10 seconds.


-If the pretzel hands fall off, worry not. You can always rearrange it again after the bath.
-Scatter some coarse sea salt on the pretzel if you like.
-Bake in a preheated oven on 260C for 8-12 minutes. If your oven cannot go that high, 250C will also be fine.
Note:
If you divide the dough into ten and bake for 15 minutes, you will get smaller pretzels with thin hands and very crispy hands those are.


I am not that big of a beer fan but I wouldn’t turn down a free beer, especially when it’s hot outside.. or when it’s cold outside or.. you know.. whatever the weather is. But I am also not a lass who would spend money on beer, unless I am making pretzels. You cannot taste the beer here, that is why you should keep some beer at hand. To help you gulp the pretzels down.


Oh.. Don't forget some mustard.

Not that yellow English mustard though.. 
Choose something bolder, Dijon I recommend.


Do try this at home. You won't regret it. But if you're too lazy to make it at home, you are always welcome at mine. Bring the beer,though.

Prost!
Amy

Submitted to YeastSpotting
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