To get the authentic pretzel taste, you need a bit of science. Bicarbonate of Soda is a strange ingredient. It tastes awful. And needs to be used with the utmost accuracy. And this is where I put my science head on. It’s an alkali. We cook with acid alot- lemon, vinegar, even citric acid. But the only alkali I ever remember using is bicarb. And even all we do with it is add it with an acid to make bubbles in bread or pancakes…. Irish Soda Bread being the main one I use.
But for this recipe you need to bake it. The baking encourages the flavour and this is then imparted onto the pretzel. It’s all very scientific involving protons and hydoxls. but we all know the flavour- think corn tortillas, and Oreo biscuits. “Lye” would have been used traditionally, but is not the safest of ingredients, and quite hard to come by. Without the step of submersing the dough in the soda water, the result is more a bagel than a pretzel.
My Soft Pretzel Recipe
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
10g Fresh Yeast
25g dark brown muscovado sugar
50g butter, melted
Sunflower oil, for greasing
2 Tablespoons of Baked* Bicarbonate of Soda
1 large Egg, lightly beaten, for glazing
flaked sea salt, to serve
*First you need to bake the Bread Soda!
Pour about half a pack of bicarbonate of soda onto a foil-lined baking tray and bake at 1000C for 1 hour. Transfer this to an airtight container, label! and use to make the pretzels.
Put the flour, yeast, sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in your mixing bowl and mix together to combine. In a large jug, mix together 300ml lukewarm water and the melted butter. Add this to the flour mixture and combine together to form a rough dough. Leave to rest for 5 minutes. Knead for about 5 minutes in the mixer or until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside until doubled in size, about one hour. Once risen, divide into 8 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each piece into a long rope about 60cm long. To form into pretzels, lay the rope in a U-shape with the curve pointing towards you. Take the two ends and cross them over.
Take the ends, lift them backwards and press them into the curve of the U-shape. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Preheat oven to 180oC.
Carefully place the pretzels on a baking tray lined with parchment and lightly greased with oil. Cover lightly with oiled cling film. Set aside for about 20 mins until puffy.
Fill a medium-sized saucepan with water, bring to the boil, add the baked bicarbonate of soda, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. One at a time, carefully lift the pretzels into the pan and cook for 20 secs per side. The pretzels will rise to the surface; flip with a slotted spoon.
Use the spoon to gently lift the pretzels from the pan and return them to the baking tray. Once they have all been cooked in the water, lightly brush with the egg and sprinkle with flaked sea salt.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 mins or until a rich, dark brown. Allow to cool on the baking tray for 10 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Best served on the day made but can be frozen for up to 1 month.
I think the next time, I’ll roll of the dough and cut it into the strips, this might make the dough smoother, and less stretched. They tasted really great, too great I think, as I want to make them again at the weekend. But only to perfect the shaping you understand 😉