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Soft Pretzels

I should perhaps start by explaining how this page comes to exist. I go to Munich once every year or two and drink lots of beer and eat lots of pretzels. Not those silly little biscuits they call pretzels in the UK but big bits of bread covered with salt crystals. Just the thing with a Maß of Weisbier.

But could I find anywhere to buy them in the UK? Nope. No one does them.

So finally, just before my 42nd birthday I started searching the Web for recipes and discovered lots, but they're mainly written by americans so everything is in cups (8floz apparently) so I read some of the recipes, translated them into english and came up with what follows, which is loosely based on this recipe.

First batch of pretzels
Poor quality picture of the first batch

The results were good enough that people who had also been to Munich with me assumed I'd bought them. The only downside to the recipe is that the crust isn't as hard as the german ones, which I suspect are glazed in some way.

Anyway, here's the recipe. Enjoy.

Soft Pretzels

Makes about eight to ten pretzels. You need:

    16oz white flour
    1 tsp salt
    2 tsp sugar
    2 tsp dried yeast
    1oz butter
    9 floz water

    5 tsp bicarbonate of soda (aka sodium bicarbonate aka baking soda)
    coarse rock or sea salt

Directions:

  1. Make white bread dough using 1lb of white flour. I used our bread making machine on the dough setting. I also used 1oz butter rather than our normal dash of olive oil and slightly less salt than usual to encourage a more vigorous rise. If you've not got a bread making machine yet (and, if not, why not!) then just make it by hand.
  2. Let the dough rise (in our machine it takes an hour).
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C or Gas mark 7.
  4. Put the bicarbonate of soda in a deep frying pan along with a couple of pints of water and start bringing it to the boil.
  5. Grease a couple of baking sheets.
  6. When the dough has risen grab a lump of it (about an eighth) and roll it until you've got a long thin sausage about 15" long with tapered ends. Let it rest for a couple of minutes and then shape it into a pretzel, using a little water to stick the ends to the body.
  7. When the water in the frying pan is simmering drop the pretzel into the water and leave it there for about 20 seconds on each side. This bit is critical. Leave it in for too little time and they will come out soft, leave it too long and they come out hard and naff.
  8. Take the pretzel out and drop it onto the baking sheet. Sprinkle with rock salt.
  9. Once you've filled one sheet stick it in the oven. They take about 10-12 minutes to cook. They should be well browned.
  10. Cool (while practising the words "here, have a pretzel, yes, I made them myself" ;-)) and eat while fresh, preferably with proper German beer (although Milton Brewery Jupiter seems to work fine too) and ideally outdoors.

PS: do not store covered, or the salt will be absorbed into the pastry.

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