The Internet Times Supplement

How to make hard pretzels

In Food & Drink on June 26, 2011 at 10:13 am


… and soft ones too. A NYT article re soft pretzels here.

You have probably arrived here because your search for a GOOD Hard Pretzel recipe has proven almost impossible to find on the interwebtubenets. Searching for ‘hard pretzel recipe’ will invariably end up with the sort of nonsense ‘recipe’ which invariably includes as one of its ingredients the instruction ‘First open your bag of hard pretzels’. For me, this is NOT a true recipe. Argue that one with yourself but I live in a place where it is nigh on impossible to get hold of these easily. For pretzel eaters there are many preferred brands of pre-made hard pretzels. Mine are DEFINITELY ‘Snyders of Hanover, Pennsylvania’.

The recipes are below…

If you have never tried pretzels in their various forms you simply do not know what you are missing. For those of you who have been to the Oktoberfest in Munich or spent any time in Pennsylvania you will know what I mean when I say this.

If you happen to be in Philadelphia, I recommend a trip to the Reading Terminal Market where you will be overwhelmed by the food options available to you. There is simply nothing to beat a fresh soft Amish pretzel with mustard. There are several merchants selling them and I will defer to your choice of vendor.

Equally, having lived in Munich, Germany and traveled throughout to various towns, cities, and biergarten, you cannot visit without trying the gigantic soft bretzen/bretzel… (and of course other delights like wieswurst) naturally washed down with a large Masskrug of fine Reinheitsgebot beer (so many to choose from and so little time…).

NOTE: Masskrug is the PROPER name (shortened to ‘ein mass’ or ‘ein krug’) and should not be confused with a Stein or with the many other names given to specific glasses in different regions of the country. Equally, I can think of no greater insult than someone trying to serve me German beer in a plastic glass. This happened to me once in the Schiller Cafe ( a VERY lively sport bar near the Munich Hauptbanhoff) when Manchester United supporters arrived for a match with Bayern-Munich. I walked out as did most Germans who would NEVER drink from a plastic beer glass of any sort unless there were absolutely no alternative.

Putting these points aside, after significant searching and asking different people (German, Pennsylvania Dutchies etc), I arrived at the following ‘best’ recipes for your delight. If you can propose better or alternative ones I would appreciate hearing from you… I will let you do your own weight/measure conversions between the different ones presented here. Additionally, there are some excellent videos to show you how to make the pretzel shape… here. Practice makes perfect so expect some failures along the way…

Pretzels – Hard and Soft Recipes

NOTE: There is a lot of debate regarding the dangers of using lye in the water used to boil pretzels (and of course bagels). Put simply, of you want the real deal in terms of texture and flavour, there is NO other substitute. Like all ‘risky’ things in life, common sense and taking precautions is key to this. While baking soda is often used, it is NOT the same. You need the appropriate alkaline chemical reaction to achieve the authentic result. There is an excellent web page here with good pictures on the process used to make Swabian Laugabrezla and, by the same author, another version here.

Servings: 8 Servings

Ingredients 1 pk Yeast ]OR if using sourdough add 1 cup poolish style starter
1 1/2 c Warm water ]Reduce the water to 1 c or less – add slowly
1 ts Salt
1 tb Sugar
4 c Flour
1 Large egg, beaten gently with 1 T of water (for the wash)
Coarse salt – Kosher or sea being best

Preparation SOFT PRETZELS:

1. Dissolve yeast in water.
2. Add salt and sugar.
3. Blend in all the flour and knead until smooth.
4. When smooth, divide the dough into small pieces and roll into ropes. The size would be up to you but
5. Twist ropes into conventional pretzel shapes and place on a paper-lined baking tray. Allow to proof / rest for a short time.
6. Brush the pretzels with beaten egg, sprinkle with coarse salt.
7. Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until brown.

Best eaten fresh as they do go stale relatively quickly.

HARD PRETZELS

Do everything above but reduce the amount of water to about 1-1/4 cups. In addition, add 1/4 cup of melted butter and make the pretzels smaller. Bake until browned. The pretzels will stay good for months in a tight container.

=============================================

SOURDOUGH HARD PRETZELS

This more traditional recipe takes about 2 days and produces 12 crisp pretzels

Day 1

6 oz cool water, finger warm (about 70F / 20C)
9 oz white starter, 100% hydration
20 oz unbleached white bread flour
1 T honey

1. Place liquid ingredients into a mixing bowl and, using a dough hook, mix to combine. This will make adding the flour easier to incorporate and prevent ‘clumping’.
2. Add the flour gradually.
3. Knead until the dough is smooth but firm. Using a machine this will take about 8 minutes.

NOTE: This is a VERY firm dough. It may be tough for your mixer (or wrists) so keep a close eye on it. If you hear or smell signs that the mixer is struggling, then make sure you stop, loosen the dough, and restart. It is truly tough to do by hand.

4. Divide the dough into 3 oz pieces and form into rough balls.
5. Place on a baking sheet covered with baking paper and allow to rest covered, with a clean cloth, for 45 mins.
6. Remove one ball of dough from the covered pan at a time and, using your hands, roll it into an 18-20 inch ‘snake’. Keeping the dough as evenly distributed as possible.
7. Use the method of your choice to form into a ‘traditional’ pretzel shape.

NOTE: As you work the dough you will notice it is very dry and forms a skin. It may actually be hard to roll due to its dryness. Also, you may get air bubbles inside the dough. This is fairly common and probably won’t roll out i.e. save yourself the effort and accept this. The thinner you get your rope, the crunchier your pretzels will be.

8. Place the formed pretzels back onto the baking sheet.
9. Place the baking sheet into a plastic bag and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Day 2

1/4C Egg Beaters (American egg substitute) or 1 egg beaten with 1 t water in a small bowl
Kosher or Coarse Sea Salt

1. Preheat oven to 400F
2. When the oven is hot, remove your tray/s from the refrigerator.
3. Brush the tops of the pretzels with egg substitute / beaten egg) and then sprinkle with kosher salt.
4. Bake IMMEDIATELY so that the salt does not have time to dissolve.
5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Pretzels will puff and turn golden brown and crispy.
6. Place the pretzels on a cooling rack.

Serve with mustard and/or you can add some different toppings/fillings for variety.

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