Pretzels have been with us for centuries. Opinions differ about the pretzel’s origin, as well as the origin of the name. Some assume that the Catholic Church played a leading role in the early history of the pretzel because pretzels, made of a simple mixture of water, flour and salt, were an ideal food to consume during Lent, when all types of meat, dairy and eggs were prohibited.
Pretzels are usually parboiled in a mixture of water and baking soda that gives them their traditional skin and flavor. First time I made pretzels in the traditional way, but I found them too chewy. Since then I leave out this step and just simply bake the pretzels.
However, if you want to follow tradition, before baking add 50 grams / 1/4 cup of baking soda to a large pot of water, and bring to a rolling boil. Boil each pretzel for 30 seconds per side, then place them on baking sheets.
For the dough:
- 700 g (~5 2/3 cups) flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 70 g (~1/3 cup) butter
- 200 ml (~3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) milk
- 200 ml (~3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp) water
- 40 g (~1 1/2 oz) fresh yeast (4 tsp dry yeast)
- 1 egg for the egg wash
For the salty glaze:
- 3 tsp salt
- 4 tsp flour
- 40-45 ml (~3 tbsp) water
Place 1/2 tablespoon of sugar and yeast in a small bowl and combine with lukewarm milk. Cover and set aside until yeast proves.
In a large bowl rub butter and flour together. Add salt, 1/2 tablespoon of sugar and mix together. Pour in lukewarm water and the activated yeast, mix and form into a pliable dough. Cover the dough and let it rise for 45-50 minutes.
On a floured surface knead the dough again, then divide it into 12 equal pieces. Form balls and let them rest for 5 minutes. Roll each piece into a 60-70 cm / 23-27″ long rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Spread a little water on the ends of the rope to help them stick to the dough.
(At this point you can parboil the pretzels if you want. See instructions above.)
Transfer the pretzels on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush them with the beaten egg and let them rest for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 210°C / 410°F and prepare the salty glaze. In a small bowl mix together salt, flour and water. Bake the pretzels until they start to get some colour (for about 12-14 minutes). Take them out of the oven and drip the salty glaze on them. Put the pretzels back to the oven and bake until they become golden brown.