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German Soft Pretzels

So I have been away from my blog for a few weeks. I could give you a handful of excuses, such as I have been overwhelmed with the end of winter and have been spending every waking minute in the sunny outdoors (which really isn’t as true as it should be) or that I have been working on my tennis game (which is true) or that I’ve been settling into my new job at a bakery (Yes! Finally! I have been looking for this job for so long now!). All of these things are well and good, but honestly I have been lazy and lacking in inspiration.

I did make a rather nice Grape Cake a couple weeks hence, which was just a simple confection made to be dusted with powdered sugar and it was a wonderful way to use up slightly gone-by grapes. I love those recipes that rescue your grocery dollars at the last second. A strong reason why I make Refrigerator Soup most weeks to use up the veggies and keep me well stocked with veggie soup for my lunches (and often breakfast, too! Soup for breakfast??? Cozy, awakening nutrition? Absolutely!)

Well, there I was lacking inspiration so I asked my darling love, “Noah, what should I make for Scone & Kettle this week?” He usually has good suggestions. This week he reminded me of something delicious which I, personally, have only experienced once and which has, as a result, retained a magical halo about itself. Soft german pretzels, warm from the oven, of course.

When Noah and I were in culinary school together, we competed on the Knowledge Bowl team, a team which studies all year to compete against culinary students of other schools around the country. The year we went, the competition was in Columbus, Ohio, which, to our delight, has a German Town. Or rather, German Village, it looks like. We walked several miles from our hotel (and then back, completely stuffed. Ugh!) to a German restaurant where soft pretzels were served as the breadbasket. Never before, or until today, had I had them.

Now my dad tells me these are a specialty of Philadelphia and he would know since he grew up there. What do I know? I’m just a simple Maine girl. He advises they should be served with a light coating of melted butter and sprinkled with salt and don’t forget the mustard. I’m having mine with a sweet and spicy mustard and Noah dipped his in butter and cinnamon sugar. However you go, you will enjoy these.

Recipe credit goes to Susi at Susi’s Kochen Und Backen Adventures. And no, “backen” does not mean “bacon”, you crazies.

German Soft Pretzels

German Soft Pretzel Nuggets

1.5 cups warm water

2 T light brown sugar

1 package (2.25 t) active dry yeast

3 oz unsalted butter, melted

4.5 to 5 cups all purpose flour

1 t salt

vegetable oil

3 qts water

1/2 to 3/4 cup baking soda

1 whole egg, beaten with 1 T water (for egg wash)

kosher salt

Combine water, yeast, sugar and melted butter in bowl of mixer with dough hook attachment.

Add 4.5 cups flour and 1 tsp salt and mix on low until combined. Add a little more flour if you think the dough is too wet. Continue mixing on medium with dough hook until ball forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Dough should be smooth. Turn out on un-floured surface (trust me, it will be easier) and shape into a ball by continuously moving the ball in a circle with your fingers while tucking the edges in and under gently. Eventually you’ll have a nicely uniform ball.

Place this in a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place for an hour until double.

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Get the water boiling (use a large pot) nicely and add the baking soda carefully. It will bubble up quickly and may come over the sides. Use a large pot and you should be fine. I used the ¾ cup baking soda recommended in the recipe but it seemed to leave a slightly bitter aftertaste, so I’m wondering if using slightly less would be better? Or perhaps I just boiled the dough too long…

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope roughly 22 inches long and cut pieces about 1.5 inches long. Boil the pieces, 15-20 at a time, for 30 seconds per batch. To coat them in egg wash, place the pieces in batches into a large bowl and just toss with egg wash using your hands. I think this is the most effective way to get a good coating of egg wash, which will give you that deep caramel color.

Place pretzels on well-greased sheet pans and sprinkle with salt to taste (you could also add other things like pepper? curry powder? rosemary???). Make sure they’re not touching. Bake 15-20 minutes until nicely darkened and cooked through. If you take one out and bite into it to test for doneness, like I did, be careful. They’re hot. And delicious!

Serve with whatever crazy sauces you can invent! Enjoy!

Tell me your stories about pretzels!