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
- 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)
- 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.