Search For The Perfect Pretzel
Bavaria Is Hard To Beat
I love travel for the endless opportunity to experience new cultures and cuisines. As a German native, one of the few culinary delights that I’ve longed for since moving to Colorado is the Bavarian pretzel. I have been on a quest to find an authentic pretzel since I arrived in sunny Colorado four years ago. While I have encountered many decent attempts, I still haven’t found “The One”.
Sure, I’ve found elements of the perfect pretzel but I’ve yet to find a pretzel in the US that combines everyone into ONE perfect pretzel: crispy, crunchy little arms crossed and twisted into a delightful dark-brown knot. From this knotted center, baked rings that taper out, growing perfectly into a thick loop of crispy and chewy crust. The entire pretzel should be about as large as two hands forming a shallow bowl. Ideally, the thick middle has a crunchy, almost milk-chocolate-colored crust, split open while baking to expose a promising glimpse of its cream-colored inside which is a squishy, not too dry, light-colored yeast dough. Taking a bite of this perfect pretzel with butter equals perfection! I know, a nutritionist might shudder at this type of snack, but what can I say? It’s a Bavarian staple, and I miss buying one in the morning or snacking on one throughout the day. Pretzels are perfect when you are on the go and even better when enjoyed alongside a cold-brewed beverage in a sun-dappled beer garden.
After all these musings, I promise, I do have a recipe for you! Admittedly, I haven’t tried my hand at it yet, but try it if you der (German-language pun intended)! If you’d rather try THE original than bake one yourself, I recommend joining our Bavaria or Danube trips to taste this local specialty. Bonus: you’ll have no trouble working it off as you cycle through beautiful landscapes – my hometown included!
For The Dough:
- 1.5 cup white all purpose flour (around 9 – 12 % protein)
- 9 oz milk (lukewarm)
- 9 oz water (lukewarm)
- 5.5 tbs Butter (unsalted)
- 1 tbsp malt extract (liquid or dried, or, alternatively, brown sugar)
- 2 tsp instant yeast (or 4.5g fresh)
- 2 tbsp Salt (unrefined)
For The Finishing Solution:
- 6.25 cups Water
- 3 tbsp Baking Soda
- Unrefined salt (Rock/sea salt)
Add 100g of flour, all the yeast and the water into a bowl. Mix, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for at least 5 hours. After that, add the rest of the flour, salt, milk, malt extract and melted butter. Mix and knead the mixture for about 10 minutes to make a firm dough, then leave for approx. 1.5 hours. The dough should spring back if you push it gently.
When ready, knock the dough back and start forming shapes. The easiest is to make batons around 2cm thick.
Here’s your challenge for the traditional shape: Roll the dough out to be a long (40 cm) rope with the middle 5cm bulged to a diameter of around 3 cm, tapering to the ends being around 0.75 cm thick. Bring the two ends together about 5 cm in, overlap them, twist, and bring back to go over the main body, almost like tying a knot. Leave for 30 minutes uncovered in a warm room to rise and develop.
In the meantime, bring the 1.5 liters of water to a boil in a large pot and add the baking soda.
Once the dough has risen, place the trays next to a cold window with some wind blowing or use a fan. This develops a skin on the pretzels which gives that special chewy texture. Once done, drop the shaped dough into the boiling solution (one at a time) until they float (about 5 seconds), fish out with a spatula (or similar) and lay on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with sea salt (lightly at first, you find your own taste preference later) and slash the dough to a depth of around 1 cm in the thick part at the top-back.
Bake at 400 F in the oven for around 16 minutes, until a nice deep bready brown is seen on the pretzels. Don’t go for gold or chestnut, go for brown, it’s important for the flavor.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They are lovely warm and fresh out of the oven or cooled and crisp. I recommend having them with butter.