Baking bread has always been a daunting process for me. I always start off making one thing, but the end dish will be something completely different. I’ll start off making brioche and end up with pita breads.
I’ve had bread that’s called pretzel at many places. But it wasn’t until very recently I had the most traditional, authentic form. It was recommended to me by my sister. It was this small but prominent stall at the Frankfurt Airport, called Heberer’s Traditional Bakery. The pretzels were so delicious, we decided to wait in that 15 minute queue twice and it was so worth it. Both times we had the sour cream and chives pretzel. We also had the plain one and the mixed seed one. Everything was so tasty there! It had a really crunchy exterior to start with and then it went to become really chewy but soft inside. The sour cream one was my favourite.
Back to my pretzels. I read a lot, a lot, about making pretzels from all different websites. Each website had a different recipe. But over all, I understood that the dough has to be soft, but not wet and sticky, also not dry. It needs to be in a baking soda bath for a couple of seconds to a minute for that crust to be the way it is and the interior to be soft but chewy. My recipe does not have baking soda, because I didn’t have baking soda at home. I had baking powder. I loved the outcome. So I didn’t consider switching to baking soda. This pretzel takes hardly 1 hour right from the mixing process to the proofing till baking. And it is very easy to make. There is not much elbow grease work involved either. It’s a lazy person pretzel!
I started off by activating the yeast in some warm milk and brown sugar. Personally, I feel the brown sugar adds a chewyness, but you can also add white sugar or even honey.
Then, I mixed in the melted butter, flour and salt. Gave it a quick mix. And then knead it for 2 minutes with an electric beater, (5 mins with a wooden spoon) just until it came together to form a ball easily.
I let it rest in a warm spot for about 10 minutes.Then I divided the dough into 12 portions and shaped them.
I made the baking powder bath by adding baking powder to hot water. I dropped the shaped pretzels dough into the baking powder bath for 1 minute on each side.
Finally, I brushed the top with melted butter and milk, topped it off with my favourite toppings and baked them at a very high heat for about 15 minutes.
Shaping the pretzel
Makes- 12 pretzels
Flour- 1 cup
Yeast- 2 teaspoons
Milk- 12 tablespoon,
Brown Sugar- 1 tablespoon
Melted butter- 1 tablespoon
Baking powder- 2 tablespoon
Hot water- 2 cups
For the pretzel dough, In a bowl, add brown sugar, milk and yeast. Mix it together and let it sit for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast. Once the yeast is activate, add in the melted butter, flour and salt. Mix it in well, and knead it for 2-3 minutes till it forms a smooth, soft dough ball. Proof it for 10-15 minutes till it doubles in size. Punch it down and divide it into 12 dough balls. Shape them into pretzels. Drop them in the baking powder bath for 1 minute on each side. If it is too delicate to flip, shake the bowl to coat the top of the dough with the baking powder solution.
For the baking powder bath, in a shallow roasting pan, add the baking powder and the hot water and mix well.
To bake the pretzels, preheat the oven at 220 degrees. Brush the top of the pretzel dough with some melted butter and milk mixed together (4 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon milk). Sprinkle your favourite toppings and bake for about 14 minutes.
If the dough is too sticky, add some flour, 1 tablespoon at a time just till it comes together. Do not add flour if it is not needed.
Time depends on the size of the pretzels. For the first batch, check at 10 minutes and then decide.
If you don’t want to shape the pretzels, you can even make them into bite size pieces and bake for 10-12 minutes.
You don’t always need to go savoury on pretzel toppings. Some of my favourite toppings include-
- Sea salt
- Honey mustard glaze
- Italian seasoning
- Plain pretzels topped with sour cream spread
- Mixed seeds- flaxseeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds
- Zaatar spice
- Raisins with Buttermilk and honey glaze
- Sesame seeds and honey
- Cinnamon sugar