When I wrote about Batch Baking, I mentioned making pretzels, and a few of you asked how I make them. I make soft pretzels, which are traditionally made from a simple dough of flour, yeast, water and (usually) some butter, which is cut and rolled into strips that are looped in the distinctive pretzel shape, then boiled, sprinkled with salt, and baked. They are very easy to make, but a little time-consuming, because there are several steps involved. Pretzels make tasty snacks, and when stored in an air-tight container, they keep well for several days.
There are a number of excellent pretzel recipes online. I particularly like this traditional Bavarian Pretzel recipe, which has measurements both in metrics and cups, and also explains how you can have pretzels with a tall beer and white sausage slathered with sweet mustard as a mid-morning breakfast - I must remember to try that tomorrow morning!
However, I've made some changes to the original Bavarian Pretzel recipe. The flour I use is a mix of ⅔ whole wheat and ⅓ all-purpose flour, and I use a little extra-virgin olive oil to make the dough more elastic (though most pretzel recipes call for butter, this particular one has no butter or fat at all). Also, in line with our family's effort to reduce salt consumption, I don't sprinkle them with pure salt, but include sea salt, sesame seeds and fresh thyme in an egg glaze, and I spoon it over the pretzels before baking.
So, here's the recipe for my modified Bavarian Pretzels:
150 grams all purpose flour
350 grams whole wheat flour (total flour approx 4½ cups)
1 ½ cups warm water (approx)
1 package active dry yeast
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp sea salt
saucepan half-full of water
baking soda (2 tbs per 1 cup of water)
4 tbs sesame seeds
½ tsp fresh thyme
4 tbs coarse sea salt
1 egg white
Stir the brown sugar and yeast into the warm water, letting the yeast dissolve. Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours and the oil, and knead until the dough feels smooth. It should be firm and elastic, but not sticky. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a dish-cloth, let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.
Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add baking soda to water, bring the water to a boil. Pre-heat oven to 220C/450F.
Make the egg glaze: in a small electric mixer, combine seeds, thyme and salt, pulse a couple of times, add to the egg white, and beat well with a fork. (NOTE: the thyme may turn intense green during baking, probably as a reaction to the traces of baking soda on the pretzel's surface).
Divide the dough into 8 parts, roll out with your hands or on a work surface, and shape as a pretzel. To do this, you make a U shape, then take the ends, cross them over each other, and press them on the bottom of the U.
Place the pretzels in the boiling water one at a time, and leave for about 30 seconds each. They will puff up nicely as they boil. Scoop out each pretzel and place on a cookie sheet.
Spoon the egg glaze over the pretzels. Bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes).
PS Because in my family we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, I also modified the traditional looped pretzel shape slightly, to make a batch of holiday-shaped pretzels (here)!