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Sunday, 7 July 2013

"Local Breads" - Baviarian Pretzels (Laugenbrezeln)

I haven't had a decent Brez'n since living in Munich, and the next bread in the book is this very thing!  Every bakery in Munich made Laugenbrezeln and they were part of the traditional breakfast in Munich - weisswurst, brez'n, sweet mustard and weizenbier.  I wasn't much of a weizenbier drinker, especially not for breakfast, but give me the rest anytime!  Brez'n are also great with a beer (and definitely a favourite when in a biergarten) the salted crust makes you want to drink more bier and then you want to eat while you're drinking  . . . . . . and so it goes on . . . . .

This recipe isn't sourdough, but I'm sure I could convert it for next time.  So first time round I made it as per the recipe provide by Mr Leader :)

500G bread flour
40g cold butter (supposedly unsalted, but I don't stock that)
300g tepid water
5g instant yeast
15g salt

Rub the butter into the flour using your hands or paddle on stand mixer (I started doing it by hand then thought 'stuff this' and shoved it on the mixer!), until its nice and crumbly.  I soaked the yeast in the water until it softened then added this and the salt to the flour.  Kneaded it for about 10mins on speed #4 until it was smooth and pliable.

Once kneaded the dough was fermented in an oiled bowl covered with a plastic bag at room temp for about 1.5hrs.  I checked the dough after the prescribed 1hr, but it hadn't expanded sufficiently so I left for a bit extra.


This shaping was a bit different to anything I'd done before so I decided it warranted some step-by-step photos.  First off though, prepare your baking sheet - I covered mine with baking paper and wiped over some oil.

Flatten out the dough into a rough rectangle and cut into 8 equal pieces.  I then weighed mine so they were all more or less the same (about 104g).  Once all the same I rounded them and let them rest for about 10 mins covered in the plastic bag.

Weighing and shaping the dough
Each ball is then rolled out like a snake to about 30cm long, following the photos below, cross it, twist it, then fold it over so it becomes the pretzel shape:

Once shaped, all the brezn were placed on the baking tray, covered with plastic bags and popped in the fridge to proof for a few hours.  I didn't write down what time I took them out, but the recipe says you can leave them there for 2-24hrs.  I would think at 24hrs they would be over-proofed as the yeast would get a bit carried away with itself, but maybe that's not so.  However mine were probably in there for about 3-4 hours at a guess.

Before I took them out of the fridge, I brought a preserving pan full of water to the boil and reduced it to a simmer then added 1/3 cup of baking soda to it (a bit at a time so it doesn't al boil over).  The pretzels were placed into the soda water one at a time (and only 4 in the pot at once), and simmered until they floated to the top (about 20 secs) then I turned them over for another 20 secs.  They inflated slightly whilst "bathing".  I retrieved them with a slotted spoon, drip dried them and put them back on the baking paper leaving at least a couple of cm between each one.

 Once they'd all been boiled I sprinkled them with sea salt and sesame seeds:


The oven was preheated to 180°C about 15 mins prior to baking and I then slid in my baking tray and cooked the brez'n until they were reddish-brown - about 35mins with a 180° rotate at half time.

They looked absolutely fabulous when cooked, and the smell drove me mental as I was taking them to a friends place for pre-dinner drinks.  I did manage to resist ripping one open and sampling it . . . until I got to Julie's house and then it was a mad scramble to eat them.  The kids liked them, the boys loved them with their beer, and us ladies enjoyed them with our wine (and soda in my case).
I'll definitely be making these again.  Will have to read up what the baking soda treatment does to them, clearly bagels must be treated in the same way.  YUMMO is all I can say to this recipe!! :)  Think I might also send it to Susan at YeastSpotting which is something I have only done about once before.
Happiness is making bread!!
PS. So  I've just done some searches on the baking soda thing, traditionally in Germany they boil them in a lye solution prior to baking, but because of all the associated OHS issues around lye, baking soda is used instead.  It's still alkali, but not hazardous.  The alkali bath enables the brez'n to brown a lot faster at lower temperatures than would occur normally with baking - the colour is very important, plus it does alter the taste.  If you didn't alkalise the outside of the dough, and baked them long enough to brown, then the dough would dry out and be crunchy rather than the soft, chewy deliciousnesses that they are!

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