This weekend has been hot as an oven again, inside and outside. It's my perfect excuse for a baker's lost weekend, as the wife's away and I am furthering my perpetual education in baking. My latest trial has been going for that elusive pretzel, or should I say Laugenbrezel, more commonly known as a German lye pretzel.
For years I have wavered on whether I should try using lye, that caustic chemical that could burn your skin, blind you or, on a more hopeful note, unclog your clogged-up drain. Screw it, times a wasting! Last year I got the courage up and bought some lye online, but lacked courage and time (or maybe it was just a sourdough recipe) to try and use it. Crank up the AC, crunch the percentages, and what else to do except make brezeln? I mean it's research, really!
My inspiration started last week while visiting my mom. We took a visit to that über supermarket and entertainment park known as Whole foods. As I passed the buffet line of salads and all sorts of healthy stuff, out of the corner of my eye, I saw these huge looking pretzels. I asked the lady behind the counter to cut it in half, dreaming of smearing it with butter and ham, like back in my days in Germany!
To my horror and amazement she cut the pretzel in half on the vertical rather then horizontal. Horror. How was I gonna make a pretzel and speck sandwich? While trying to rectify the mistake with my wife's handy Swiss Army knife, it reminded me that Americans don't really understand how to enjoy a pretzel (or brezel). They eat these monster soft ones off push carts that are smeared with mustard. Or you find bagged in various guises and shapes of the hard pretzel variety!
There is still a lot to be learned, in terms of what a real brezel is or how it should be eaten. Call it pretzel logic. My batch this weekend were based on the formula from FCI where I attended baking classes ages ago.I decided to turn them into sourdough with my new and improved stiff levain.
Makes 6 85g pieces.
65g water (you may have to add a little extra depending on your absorption)
187g levain (mine is @60% hydration)
10g oil (neutral, canola, sunflower, or lard if you feel piggish?)
Salt for the top of pretzels.
Mix all the ingredients till you get a firm bagel like dough.
Bulk proof about 2 hours. Pre-shape into small logs and rest 25 minutes.
Roll from the middle of dough out to both sides leaving the middle thicker as you roll out edges. Cross your arms and lift the two strands and twist, pressing the ends into the dough as illustrated!
Chill 30 minutes.
Lye dip: 40 grams of lye + 1 liter water whisked carefully with wire whip until diluted…caution it's caustic, use gloves, goggles and open the windows to vent!!!
Proceed to dip pretzels, one at a time. Using a spatula or skimmer, place on a rack to let excess drip. Salt, I used Sicilian sea salt, or go without?
Bake @440 F for 16 minutes, no steam!
Das ist lecker!