If you’ve ever been to a mall, you’ve probably eaten a Wetzel’s “Pretzel” or maybe Auntie Anne’s “Pretzels”. There’s something alluring about those pale brown “pretzels” sitting under that florescent heating light. Notice the quotations on pretzel. Those pretzels are tasty, I’ll admit that, but they’re not “REAL” pretzels. I know, I know, you’re thinking I’m just being crazy (what’s new right?) but I can’t help it. Once you’ve eaten a “real” German pretzel you’ll never be able to look at pretzels the same again. These things are AWESOME! Soft, fluffy, golden deliciousness, yep, that’s what these are. Don’t be intimidated by the poolish (preferment) or even the lye dipping solution, they’re not nearly as hard as they look.
Soft German Pretzels
makes 8-4 ounce pretzels.
A Baking Perfection original formula.
What you’ll need:
3.12 ounces (88 grams) – bread flour
3.12 ounces (88grams) – water
1/8 teaspoon (1.3 grams) – instant yeast
all of the poolish
17.7 ounces (501 grams) – bread flour
7.3 ounces (206 grams) – water, 75°
0.5 ounces (13 grams) – salt
0.3 ounces (8 grams) – instant yeast
1.6 ounces (45 grams) – unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Pretzel salt for sprinkling on top
17.6 ounces (500 grams) – water
0.75 ounces (21 grams) – food grade lye
Mix all poolish ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12-15 hours. I mix mine before going to bed.
When the poolish is nice and bubbly, pour all of it into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the flour, water, salt and yeast to the bowl and mix on stir (low) for 2 minutes to incorporate the ingredients. The dough will be very stiff. After the 2 minutes, let the dough rest in the bowl for a short 10 minute autolyse. This will allow the flour to absorb the water and will start gluten formation.
After the 10 minutes, make a “well” in the dough and put the pieces of the butter in the well. Pull the dough up and over the butter incasing the butter in the dough.
Mix on second speed for 15 minutes. If after 15 minutes the dough does not look smooth, mix for another 5 minutes. The dough should look very smooth and feel soft.
Cover the bowl and let the dough sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. After the 20 mintues, the dough is ready to be shaped.
I shape pretzels two different ways. The first is a mini baguette and the other shape is of course your typical pretzel twist shape.
To make the mini baguettes divide the dough into 8-4 ounce balls. Let the dough balls rest for 5-10 minutes. This will let the gluten relax making it easier to shape. Flatten each ball into a rectangle. With the long side facing you, slightly roll the edge furthest away from you over on itself. Repeat until you get the baguette shape (think of a cigar). Gently roll the shaped dough to even it out and slightly elongate it. Repeat with the rest of the dough balls.
To make the twisted pretzel shape, divide the dough into 8-4 ounce balls. Let the dough balls rest for 5-10 minutes. This will let the gluten relax making it easier to shape. Roll the balls into a long rope, rolling the rope a little thinner at the tips. Lift up one end of the dough and overlap it over the other end to create a loop. Take the two ends and twist them one time. Take the ends of the dough and fold them down against the rounded bottom part of the pretzel. Gently push the tips against the bottom to secure them in place.
Place all of the shaped pretzels on a pan and refrigerate uncovered until a skin forms, 2-3 hours. You can leave the pretzels in over night if you want to bake them the following day.
While you’re waiting on the pretzels, make the dipping liquid. Combine the water and lye. Whisk to dissolve the lye. Wait about 5 minutes and then whisk again to make sure all lye has dissolved.
Preheat the oven to 350. Set a perforated sheet pan inside a non perforated pan. Dip the pretzels one at a time in the lye solution for about 30-45 seconds. Place on the perforated sheet pan to drain of excess lye solution. Repeat until you finish all of the pretzels.
Arrange 4 or 5 pretzels at a time on a parchment lined sheet pan. Score the pretzels. To score the baguettes, make three slashes at an angle. For the twisted pretzels, make one slash on the rounded bottom part of the pretzel. Sprinkle your pretzels with pretzel salt or fleur de sel.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pretzels are a dark golden color.
Lye is a caustic chemical, use caution while handling, always wear gloves! That being said, don’t be too scared, if you splash a little on your skin, wash it off.
Pretzels are great served with mustard and beer.
Some people like to boil the shaped pretzels in a baking soda water solution instead of lye. I highly recommend sticking with the lye solution. The lye makes a HUGE difference in the flavor and appearance of the pretzels. You will not get an authentic German pretzel without the lye, period.
You can buy cheap food grade lye online. I like the lye found here. Whatever you do, make sure you are buying food grade lye. Lye is also used for soap making so you will find non food grade lye all over the place.