I never thought I would bake pretzels. Yummy, warm pretzels. Soft on the inside with that lovely golden brown exterior crusted with salt. It's Oktoberfest again and if there's one thing Germans love with their beer -- it's those big pretzels.
And while I'm on the subject of Germans, I'll take this opportunity to announce that I am writing a second mystery series in addition to the Domestic Diva Mysteries. This one takes place in a fictional resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where Holly Miller's German grandmother runs an inn. Naturally, there will be recipes and these pretzels are just the sort of thing that will be served at Barktoberfest.
That's right, Barktoberfest! Dogs and cats will play important roles in this series. Especially a little Jack Russell terrier named Trixie who has a nose for trouble.
The series doesn't have an official name yet. That will be decided in the next few months. Look for the first book in the fall or winter of 2013.
So back to the pretzels -- turns out they're not so difficult to make after all. I found a website called Heritage Recipes and their recipe sounded about right to me. It turned out great. Honestly, the only hard part is five minutes of kneading. I decided that would be good upper body exercise and went for it. I'm sure my arms look much more toned today.
I was skeptical about boiling the raw dough. Eeek! Turns out that's a snap. After the first one, I was like a pro, whipping pretzels in and out of the simmering water. Nothing to be afraid of there! Have a clock in front of you that marks seconds as they tick by. Don't bother with a timer -- it takes longer than 10 seconds to set them. Just eyeball it. This part sounds like a big chore, but it goes really fast and isn't hard at all.
I used my KitchenAid mixer to get this recipe started, but it can (and most certainly was) made entirely by hand. Note that I used a wide, shallow pan, about 3-4 inches deep for the boiling portion. A very deep pot might make it more difficult to extract the pretzels. The original recipe calls for all-purpose flour. I used bread flour and they turned out great. Mine baked in 12 minutes, so watch the baking time carefully.
There's more good news. The recipe says they can be frozen and reheated at 400 for 10 minutes. I popped a frozen one in the toaster and it came out great. A little bit crunchier on the outside maybe, but overall it was delish.
Authentic Soft German Pretzels
(from Heritage Recipes)
makes 12 pretzels
- clock with second hand
- baking sheet
- stainless steel or enamel shallow pan that can hold 6 - 8 cups (do not use aluminum pan)
- two large bowls
- clean kitchen towel
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil + extra
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons baking soda
6 cups water
coarse salt like Kosher or coarse sea salt
In a deep bowl (or mixing bowl) dissolve the yeast in the water.
Add 1 1/2 cups flour, two tablespoons of vegetable oil, and sugar. Beat well for about 3 minutes until it becomes a smooth batter.
Gradually add the remaining flour and beat until it shapes into a dough.
Drape the kitchen towel over the bowl and place in a warm spot to rise until double -- about 1 hour.
Grease a baking sheet well. Pour some salt into a teeny bowl so you can easily sprinkle it with your fingers.
Punch down the dough and divide into 12 relatively equal pieces.
Using your hands, roll it back and forth on a board until it's a long rope. It doesn't have to be perfect. Shape it into an upside down U.
Cross the ends near the bottom.
Lift the top and fold it over so that it touches the very ends.
Pinch ends to top lightly to secure the ends to the pretzel.
Place on the greased baking sheet. Cover with the towel and let rise about half an hour. They should look puffy.
Pour six cups water and 6 tablespoons baking soda into the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
Using a slotted spatula or slotted spoon,
slide each pretzel into the water -- one at a time -- for 10 seconds.
|they will look wrinkled|
Bake 12 to 15 minutes. They should be golden brown.
Serve warm with butter or mustard. (Beer and sausages not required, but very tasty!) If not eating that day, freeze in a zip top bag and reheat at 400 for about 10 minutes to serve.