When we were in Germany this past summer, I LOVED the fresh hot pretzels that we could get every day. When we came home, I looked around for a recipe that would bring us that fresh baked flavor:
Ingredients – for the Dough:
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4 to 4 and 1/4 cups bread flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 1/2 tablespoons salted room-temperature butter
Ingredients – for the Lye Dip:
- Plastic gloves
- Safety goggles
- Digital cooking scale
- 1 quart water
- 1 ounce food-grade lye
- Coarse salt
Directions – Dough:
- Proof the yeast by dissolving it in 1/4 cup warm water and sugar for 5 minutes.
- In mixing bowl (Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook): add proofed yeast and 1 cup of warm water. Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing until smooth.
- Knead for 5 minutes. Then let rest for a few minutes. Add room temperature butter and knead for at least 5 minutes, until the butter is fully incorporated. At this time, the dough should be firm and soft, and velvety to the touch.
- Form into a ball, butter all surfaces, and let rise until double (about an hour) in a warm spot.
Shape the Pretzels:
- Place wax paper on a baking sheet.
- De-gas (punch down) the dough and divide into 12 (2-ounce) pieces. Form into balls. Using very little flour, form balls into 1-foot long strands, thicker in the middle and tapering towards the ends.
- Take each strand and roll out again to form 2-foot strands. Twist into a pretzel shape, using a little water to make the ends stick to the loop. Experienced pretzel bakers can flip pretzels into shape in the air, but most people have to coax them.
- Place the pretzels on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour. This dries out the surface and makes them easier to handle.
Make the Lye Solution:
- Put on gloves and safety glasses. Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Place 1 quart of water in a plastic or glass container, weigh 1 ounce of food grade or reagent grade sodium hydroxide into a bowl and add slowly to the water, stirring with a plastic spoon or similar object. ALWAYS ADD THE LYE TO THE WATER, not the other way around! For scientists: The lye solution will be approximately 0.75 M NaOH (FW 39.99g/mol) or almost 3% w/w.
- Remove pretzels from the refrigerator and dip each for 30 seconds in the lye solution. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on greased or parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.
- Sprinkle pretzel with salt. Make a deep cut through the thick part of the pretzel horizontally with a razor blade or lame. Let pretzels rest for 15 minutes.
- Bake pretzels at 375 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until deep golden brown.
Variations – instead of making pretzel shapes, can make buns or pretzel bites.