Over eight years ago, we moved to Germany. It was a little daunting to say the least, but we were also excited for an amazing adventure and all the memories we were going to make. We settled in Waiblingen, a small suburb just outside Stuttgart. To say we had a blast would be an understatement. I love Germany and would love to go back any day.
Spoiler alert–Germany has amazing food. I know so many people aren’t going to believe me. What’s so amazing about brats and potatoes?
Well, if you’ve been to Germany, you know that their food is much more complex than just sausages and potatoes. It’s also amazing salads, sandwiches, krauts, and döners. But the awesomeness of German food lies in its simplicity and their ability to turn the fewest amount of ingredients into something spectacular. Take for example, the pretzel.
Like every other American, I grew up eating the occasional mall pretzel. Not doggin’ on those at all, because those are delicious in their own right. But German pretzels are an entire different species and really can’t be compared. Let’s start with the thinness of the top half of the pretzel. It gets nice and crunchy with tons of flavor. Then you move down to the puffy bottom of the pretzel which is soft and chewy. The crust is another element–it is incredibly dark. Burnt? No, just containing every flavor molecule you can imagine.
Germans go one step further by slicing open the thick bottom and spreading a pretty healthy dose of butter or quark. You can even get them with chives. I mean, this thing could be a meal. And maybe that’s exactly what it should be. I know it’s good enough to be a meal. Let’s just say there’s a reason why you can buy one the size of your head at beer gardens.
If you’re thinking, Geez lady, give it a rest with the pretzel obsession! I refuse. One, because they are so delicious. And two, they are particularly comforting food for me because I would get them pretty regularly at the bakery around the corner. Brezel is one of the easier German words to say, so they were easy to order.
Also, if you’re feeling intimidated by this recipe, don’t be! The trickiest part is the shaping, but pretzels are very forgiving and thankfully, they are tasty in any shape you make them. This recipe can easily be halved if you’re not in the mood for a big batch.
Want to go one step further? After the pretzels have cooled, grab your bread knife and slice open the thick part. Spread with your choice of butter, cream cheese, chives, and Everything but the Bagel seasoning from Trader Joe’s.
Here’s the recipe for you to try!
Crunchy, soft, chewy, flavorful--these are a culinary grab bag and are so fun to make.
For the starter:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoon yeast
Remaining ingredients for the dough:
- 7 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons lukewarm milk
- 2 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon molasses
For the boiling solution:
- 7 cups water
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
For the topping:
- 2 tablespoons rock salt or flaked sea salt
- butter, cream cheese, chives, Everything but the Bagel seasoning
For the starter:
Mix all starter ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight.
For the dough:
To the bowl with the starter mix, add all dough ingredients and mix well with spatula or large wooden spoon until dough is shaggy. Turn out onto a clean work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until dough is well combined. It will be firm but there won't be too much gluten development because the dough is more stiff.
Place in a large greased bowl and allow to proof for about an hour and a half, or until the dough springs back when gently pushed with a finger.
When done proofing, turn dough out onto clean work surface and divide equally into eight pieces. Work with one piece at a time and cover the remaining pieces with plastic wrap so they don't dry out.
Roll the dough into a log and keep rolling until it is a long baton. Focus your rolling on the edges of the dough so that the middle stays large and the ends get skinny. The pretzel should measure about 20 inches long. Bring the ends together, overlap them, and tuck ends on top of the bottom of the pretzel. You may have to pinch the ends into the body to make sure they stay put. Repeat this step with each piece of dough.
Lightly grease two pieces of parchment paper with nonstick spray and place on two cookie sheets. Place four pretzels on each tray and allow to sit uncovered at room temp for about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Toward the end of the resting period, bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add baking soda. Once the pretzels have rested, place in the pot one at a time and allow to boil for about 10 seconds, until the pretzel floats. Remove with a slotted spoon and place back on the parchment paper. Make any adjustments to the pretzel shape if you need to. With a sharp knife, make a slash horizontally in the thick part of the pretzel. Sprinkle with rock or flaked sea salt. Go a little light on the salt, you may not need to use the whole two tablespoons.
Bake pretzels for 30-35 minutes, or until they have developed a deep chestnut color. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.
If you want, slice open the thick part of the pretzel and spread with your choices of butter, cream cheese, chives, and Everything but the Bagel seasoning. Enjoy!