Oktoberfest in Germany begins Saturday, September 22, 2012, and ends Sunday, October 7, 2012...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

German Soft Pretzels (Laugenbrezeln)

Hi!    Well, we’re one day into Oktoberfest now and I have hit most of my goals this month of learning new German recipes to share with you.   Check the Oktoberfest tab above to open the list and have some fun cooking German :)   Anyway, I’ve been working on German Soft Pretzels for a couple of days now, and I think the kinks are finally worked out.   My inspiration comes from a cookbook titled “Spoonfuls of Germany” written by Nadia Hassani.  I have tweaked the recipe a bit.   Here is my adaptation….

First of all, if you have never made German Soft Pretzels before, you may not know that the lovely brown patina you see in pictures, or may have actually experienced in Baveria, is actually achieved by the use of food-grade lye.   I just can not bring myself to use or serve anything using lye.   Yes, I know the cooking process changes the makeup and results in a perfectly edible product, but the need to use rubber gloves and goggles in the preparation process is just too scary for me.   Not to mention I usually have a two year old partner in the kitchen with me.    Thus, the baking soda.   From all I have read, and experienced using it, the end result is not the same as the use of lye.  So I'm  still boiling the pretzels before baking, but in addition, just to hedge my bet – and get a nicely browned and slightly blistered finish, I am brushing the boiled and drained pretzels with an egg wash, then just lightly salting with a course ground sea salt.   Okay, let’s go….


½ cup lukewarm water
1 ½  Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon Fast Acting Dry Yeast ( you can use Bread Machine yeast )
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ Tablespoon softened butter
An additional ½ cup lukewarm water
4 quarts water
¼ cup baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon water

First of all,  if you have a sheet cake pan with a lid like this, say hooray!   This pan works out very well for allowing the pretzels to rest and grow while keeping covered.

If you do not, no worries, just place the pretzels on a nonstick baking pan and cover with a damp towel for their rest.   If your pan is not stick free,  place them on parchment paper.   Don’t place them on a greased sheet.  That would compromise the baking soda and water boil.

Okay, let’s get started!

First, to ½ cup of lukewarm water add the honey and yeast.  Stir well and set aside for about 10 minutes to proof.   The mixture should become very foamy – an indication that the yeast is working.

Then, to the bowl of a food processor add the flour and salt.  Run on medium high for a few seconds to distribute the salt and aerate the flour.

Now, top the flour with the softened butter, yeast mixture and additional ½ cup lukewarm water.  

Run the processor on medium high.   If the mixture does not come together in a dough ball, add a little more lukewarm water in very small increments through the chute until the dough ball forms.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface.   Briefly knead the dough and shape it into a ball.   

Divide the ball in half.   Divide that half in half, and so on until you have 8 small sections.   Roll each section into a ball and allow the dough to rest for about 5 minutes.

Then, roll each ball into a rope about 16-18  inches long.

Twist the ends once….

Then again ….

Then fold over and press the ends into either side of the center bottom of the pretzel shape ….

Now, place as many as there is room for into a nonstick-pan and cover with lid.   If you do not have a non-stick pan, place them on a parchment lined pan.   You don’t want to grease the pan.  Then cover with a damp towel to prevent the dough from drying out if you do not have a lid for your pan.   I have shaped 6 regular pretzels, and used the other two rolls of dough to make sticks ….

Okay, now allow the pretzel shapes to rest and grow for about 30 – 40 minutes.   

When they have reached the degree of plumpness you like then bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and add ¼ cup of baking soda to the water and stir.   At this point, you should also set the oven to 425 degrees F. to pre-heat.

Now, one by one, lower a pretzel into the water.  When the pretzel raises to the top – in about 15 seconds, remove with a slotted spatula or spoon and allow the pretzel to drain.

When the pretzel has drained – it only takes a few minutes, place it back on the non-stick or parchment lined pan.  

Okay, now vigorously mix the egg and teaspoon of water to make the wash.   Then brush each pretzel with the egg wash.

Then lightly sprinkle with coarsely grated sea salt.

Place the pretzels in the pre-heated oven for about 12 – 15 minutes or until a nice golden brown.

Serve at once.   They are at their best fresh and warm from the oven.

Serve with butter – which is how they are primarily eaten in Germany, or with a mustard sauce which is more common in America.   I will share a recipe below for a mustard sauce we enjoyed these pretzels with, along with some fun pictures of our recipe adventure with my girls.

Apricot & Mustard Sauce
2 Tablespoons Apricot fruit spread – I use Hero brand
1 Tablespoon Coarse Ground Mustard
½ teaspoon smoky paprika
1 teaspoon fresh minced chives
Stir all ingredients in a small bowl until well blended.

Enjoy !!!     And have fun making German Soft Pretzels .....

Each of us girls made a mustard sauce - then Papa and Daddy judged.   Our Miss Maci was the winner.  

This is a really fun family activity - perfect for Oktoberfest !!!!

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