Authentic Bavarian Pretzels

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Introduction: Authentic Bavarian Pretzels

Bread Challenge 2017

Runner Up in the
Bread Challenge 2017

While living in southern Germany I developed a taste for Bavarian style pretzels, along with German beer and sausages. This recipe produces the best pretzels I have had since Germany. I have tried all sorts of recipes, including boiling in a baking soda solution. None come close to this recipe and you don't have to boil them. The secret is lye! German bakers dip their pretzels in a lye solution before salting and baking them. Lye can be dangerous to work with but I will show you my method and the precautions I use. Hold the Hefeweizen until the end.

Yields: 4-6 large Bavarian Pretzels.

Initial prep takes about 20 minutes but since dough needs to ferment and proof, you'll have some time on your hands to do other things.

And lastly... This is my first instructable. I hope it is easy to follow but don't let my writing style discourage you. These pretzels are worth the work!

Step 1: Tools and Ingredients

Tools:

  • Stand mixer, with dough hook (without it you're mixing and kneading by hand)
  • Digital kitchen scale (not critical, I include measurements for all ingredients)
  • 2 cookie sheets
  • 2 silpat (silicone baking sheets)
  • large mixing bowl (for proofing the dough)
  • Glass measuring cup
  • Silicone pastry brush (for applying lye solution)
  • latex gloves
  • Scraper/ pastry cutter ( a sharp knife will do)
  • Timer with alarm (I use my phone)

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 2 lb/ 6 Cups: All-Purpose Flour (I use King Arthur. Find one with Malted Barley)
  • 20.5 ounces: Water (room temperature)
  • 1 packet/ 21G: Instant Yeast
  • 7/8 oz/ 1Tbsp+2tsp: Salt
  • 12 oz: Old dough (if this is your first time making, ignore, but save 12 oz of this recipe for next time)

Keep about 1/4 cup extra flour handy to adjust dough consistency

For lye and salting (wear latex gloves and eye protection. Lye can burn like acid, but the opposite pH)

  • 8G/ 1 heaping tsp: Food grade Lye powder (source https://www.amazon.com/Grade-Sodium-Hydroxide-Mic...
  • 8 oz: Water (room temp)
  • Distilled vinegar (keep on hand to neutralize lye in case you splash on your skin

Read up on using lye for baking if you haven't used it before. It's easy to use but requires respect. And use silicone baking sheets! Lye will remove the finish on metals.

  • 3-4 Tbsp: Coarse Sea Salt

Step 2: Blooming the Yeast

  • Put the yeast into the mixing bowl.
  • Add the room temperature water.
  • Mix on speed 1 or 2 until the yeast is dissolved.

Step 3: Mixing and Developing the Dough

  • Turn the mixer off
  • Add all the flour
  • Add the Old Dough
  • Add the Salt last (if poured on the yeast it will kill the yeast)
  • Mix on low (speed 1) for 5 minutes until the dough forms a ball and begins to clean the bowl. If after the first 2 minutes, it is not forming a ball, add 1 Tbsp of flour per minute until the ball forms. (I had to add 5)
  • Mix on medium (speed 4) for 5 minutes to develop the gluten

If the dough climbs the dough hook use a wet hand to slide the dough back down the hook (power off, of course)

  • Spray a large mixing bowl with shortening, transfer the dough ball to it and cover (I cover with a large sheet pan so I can use it to fold the dough on)
  • Set timer for 20 minutes

Temperature and humidity effect the moisture of the dough. The final dough should be slightly tacky and the bowl cleaned by mixing. If too wet, add flour as mentioned above. If to dry, add water.

Step 4: Ferment and Fold

  • After 20 minutes, punch down and turn out the dough onto a clean surface for folding
  • Stretch and fold the dough 4 times, once from each direction (see pics)
  • Return dough to bowl and cover
  • Set the timer for 20 minutes and repeat for a total of 3 times, stretching and folding (1 hour total)
  • After the 3rd time folding, place dough back in bowl and cover. Allow to proof for 1 hour.

Step 5: Portion and Proof

  • Place your dough on a lightly floured clean work surface
  • Using a dough cutter or sharp knife, portion into 6 equal portions
  • Wrap one portion tightly in plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator up to 3 days or freezer for longer. This is your old dough for your next batch (adds a lot of flavor and character)
  • Line up the other portions about 1-2 inches apart
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let proof 10 minutes

Step 6: Rolling Pretzels

  • Shape portion to about the size of a dollar bill
  • Fold 1/3 lengthwise to the center and fold 1/3 lengthwise from the opposite side on top of first 1/3 (pics)
  • Press seam to seal (pic)
  • Roll out dough from the center, working out to the ends until it is a 1" to 1-1/2" thick and 1-1/2' to 2' long (pic)
  • Line up about 1"to 2" apart and cover with plastic (pic)
  • Let rest for 10 minutes
  • Roll out dough from the center, working out to the ends until it is about 1/2" to 3/4" thick and 3' to 3-1/2' long
  • Grasp ends, forming a circle, crossing one end over the other
  • Twist ends once and bring to the bottom of the circle, forming a pretzel shape
  • Pick up from this point and place on baking sheet (USE SILICON SHEET)
  • Let proof for 30 minutes (I place them in the cool oven for this)

I'm baking on this sheet to show the damage the lye will do if you don't bake on silicone.

Step 7: Applying Lye and Salt

  • After removing proofed pretzels from oven, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees
  • Don latex gloves and eye protection
  • (UPDATE) FOR THIS NEXT STEP: WATER BEFORE LYE
  • Add 8 ounces room temperature water (=1 Gram lye/ 1 oz water

  • Carefully place 8 Grams/ 1 heaping teaspoon in glass or non-metallic container

  • Stir using silicone brush until water turns clear again
  • Brush lye solution liberally over pretzels (I do this twice). Solution should puddle on sheet.
  • Liberally salt pretzels with coarse sea salt
  • Neutralize the excess lye solution (especially if you have a metal sink) by pouring an equal amount of distilled vinegar into the lye solution. Pour this mixture directly into the drain and set the container under the faucet and let water flow through it for about 1 minute.
  • To remove your gloves, pull them inside out as you remove them. Ball the first glove up in your gloved hand and remove that glove by pulling inside out. Toss in the trash.

*** If you get the lye solution on your skin, flush with copious amount of vinegar and let sit. Wash with soap and water.

Step 8: Baking

  • Place baking sheets of pretzels in middle of oven and bake 20-25 minutes until pretzels turned a deep, golden brown
  • If you have a convection oven, after 20 minutes of baking you can bake on convect until done, 3-5 minutes
  • Remove from oven and place on cooling rack(s)

Grab a good German beer, some mustard and enjoy! They're best warm (can be re-warmed tomorrow).

Step 9: Lye Effect on Metal Vs. Silicone

I had an old sheet pan that I hadn't used in a while, so I decided to sacrifice it to show what lye will do to your sheet pans, These are before, after baking and after cleaning photos of the baking sheet and silpat. You can still see the pretzel outline in the silpat but it is still perfectly usable. The finish on the sheet pan is gone, down to the metal. I'll have to find use for it in the garage.

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42 Comments

Please don't take this the wrong way, the fact that you are baking pretzels or brezeln alone is great achievement. Especially because you are using lye and not just baking soda. And, you are using old dough (or pate fermente as the bakers are calling this). I am not criticizing your approach, I'd like to offer some suggestions. I've been on a pretzel baking quest for many years (and some of my earlier results can be seen here: http://www.khk.net/wordpress/2007/07/05/pretzel-b...

If you've lived in Germany and can understand a bit of German, you may want to give this recipe a try: https://www.ploetzblog.de/2014/03/08/auf-der-walz...

Or this: https://www.ploetzblog.de/2011/11/28/laugenbrezel...

Or this: http://www.homebaking.at/laugengebaeck/

What you may be able to see when you compare your recipe with these is that your dough is a bit too wet. You are working with a hydration of 64% (that means that the weight of the water in your recipe is 64% of the weight of flour), authentic recipes are much stiffer and quite a challenge for most mixers and muscles :) You are aiming for something between 50 and 55%. This will help the pretzels to keep their shape better and gives you a more authentic "chewiness".

You may also want to reduce the amount of yeast you are using. The less yeast you have, the longer it takes for the dough to rise. This is not a race where you want to cross the finish line in the least amount of time: Longer rise will result in a better flavor.

And finally, when you shape them, roll them out so that the ends are much thinner than the middle, this will give you the true Bavarian pretzel shape.

Keep up the experimentations and see if you can come up with something much closer than what you've enjoyed in Bavaria.

BTW: I use parchment paper that I spray with cooking spray. This protects my baking sheets. The baking spray is for extra protection, because the lye also likes to cling to the parchment.

First i want to thank Jack for this instructable.

When i first came across the ploetzblog website, i was amazed. I soon ordered his book and also gave it to friends as a present.

I'm also a big fan of long fermentations. I also like the chewiness, that the "Kochstueck" adds to a dough. (This is some flour boiled in water until the starch gelatinizes and is able to get a lot of water into even a stiff dough)

A preferment adds a lot of flavour. I takes time, but it's worth it. I think i will do some Brezen in the near future. I did it a couple of times, but now i picked up some new ideas...

Thank you and thanks for the links. I wish I have known about Instructables years ago. Totally forgot the taper. Was just so excited with having gotten the flavor right. I am getting there and continuing to improve. I might even get back into bier brewing. Love a good doppelbock!

Thank you for those links. I can use Chrome or google translate to translate them.

This is the recipe I use for my pretzels.

https://www.thespruce.com/brezel-the-soft-pretzels-with-old-world-taste-1446685

yes lye the secret - it is the only way to make authentic German pretzels - all the others pale in taste and texture.

I can get pretzels from a local bakery but at a stupid price ($1.25 each last time I looked) but my wife makes them following roughly the same process as above based on recipe sourced by my mother from the local baker in Germany.

I made some custom baking grids from 1/4" hardware cloth and she uses a sacrificial set of baking sheets - see pics - once they are wrecked who cares as the product never touches the sheet (i.e. the pretzels are suspended on the grids) - she also dips the pretzels rather than brushing using the grids for dying before baking - secondary benefit of the grids is circulation of air during baking.

Also for complete authenticity the fat part of the pretzel should be slashed before baking after the lye has dried to expose the inner dough - looks nice :)

IMG_9753 (Small).JPGIMG_9754 (Small).JPGIMG_9755 (Small).JPG

gcai_fwb, what is that you used for the frame? screen framing?

No not screen framing.

PLEASE NOTE - DO NOT use anything ALUMINUM around lye - it reacts quite violently and creates hydrogen gas - very combustible.- same reason putting anything Aluminum through the dishwasher causes that article to get totally discoloured - there's a bit of lye (sodium hydroxide NaOH) in the dishwasher detergent.

now to answer your query - well scrounger that I am I had some leftover corner bead from a drywalling project so I cut that down and then hammered it flat sandwiching the hardware cloth - the rectangle is sized so the inside exposed grid is close to the size of the sheet - it sorta locks - no great accuracy :)
after making them I scrubbed them throughly and then baked for a while at 450 or so - clean as they are ever going to be.
if you have access to a sheet metal brake you could make up a strip of thin galvanized metal - again bending over and hammering flat.

also when using the grids they are given a healthy brush of vegetable oil so over time they have "seasoned" - after use they get tossed in the dishwasher along with the sacrificial sheets - done!

Nice. I have stores of corner bead in the basement. Thanks for the note on Aluminum. Could've been a hard lesson.

Yeah.... try testing if you like the lye or baked baking soda.... and you you your wife's very expensice caphalon pots.... that are aluminum!!!! The boiling water just speeds up the reaction!! Yeah, I got in a little trouble for that one!!!!
I love publishing on here.... I end up learning so much about whatever I am making.

@ Jack Oat

in case you're interested here's the unadulterated recipe that my wife uses

btw she stores the lye solution between batches (in plastic/glass) - it lasts a long time

sorry no pictures :)

My Pretzel recipe (Anne's),

Yup, this version works - makes 16 pretzels an be doubled.

Ingredients:

2 lb flour

1.5 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp instant yeast (yes this works, very reactive in warm oven!)
1.5 Tbsp honey

600 ml water

Make a stiff dough and knead 5 minutes or until smooth.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hr or until doubled in oven with light on (preheat oven to 150F to speed up).

Prepare pans - grease pretzel rack (1/4c canola oil - brush grids with oil using pastry brush), put on old nasty baking sheet

Divide dough into 16 pieces; roll out each into 2 ft snake fatter in centre; do pretzel twist.

Let dry on a cloth until a bit of skin forms - 1-2 hrs. Note: dry seam-side down first, then flip at 30min to seams up - that's the final side). Don't skimp on drying - the lye is thinner with a good skin.

Pour lye into deep glass bowl, diameter of pretzel. Use protective gloves (blue ones good); use stainless steel metal slotted spoon (try plastic spatula); dip in lye very briefly, seam-side up, pressing down briefly to moisten top. Carefully transfer to grid.

Use razor knife (try razor blade) to slit fat part of pretzel; sprinkle with sea salt.

Put on pretzel rack - 8 fit closely, use 2 trays, 1 batch of 16 (possible to put directly on teflon sheets but the lye pools and is strong to the taste = yuck).

Bake @ 400F for 10 min.

Turn down to 350F for 20 min. or
convection

350F for 14 min (yes this works)

Makes 16.

Lye:
Add 1/4 c pellets to 4 c of water and stir to dissolve.
Must be stored in glass or plastic; do not contact with metal or skin.