Well, it's September and Oktoberfest is coming up. I thought I would post this recipe for real German pretzels. I made this recipe last year and I couldn't believe how good they were. A couple things to note: Don't make them too big (like you see at Oktoberfest). That size is more gimmicky than the real Bavarian pretzel. They should be about the size of your fist before baking. Also, the key ingredient to making real Bavarian pretzels is lye (sodium hydroxide). You'll see a lot of recipes with baking soda or an egg wash, but those won't turn out near as good. Food-grade lye is available on the internet (search for soap making), or if you know a bakery that makes pretzels, maybe they'll sell you some. I got mine at Lowes, believe it or not (albeit, not food-grade). It's called Roebic Crystal Drain Opener and the label stated it was 100% Sodium Hydroxide, so I figured, what the heck? I didn't die or get cancer (that I know of) and I read somewhere on the internet that some home-ec teacher used it for her kids with no problems. So, it's probably no big deal, but I don't officially condone its use over food-grade lye
. Either way, be careful with lye! It's the opposite extreme of a hard-core acid and will cause some serious skin problems if you touch it. For some reason, though (chemistry), when you put these lye-soaked pretzels in the oven, they are perfectly safe to eat after baking. Anyway, on to the recipe:
1 tsp yeast
1/8 cup warm water (105dF)
1-1/3 cups warm water (105dF)
1/3 cup brown sugar
4-1/2 cups flour (Bread Flour is best)
2 Tbsp Lye w/ 2 qts water
Kosher Salt or Sea Salt
1. Dissolve yeast in 1/8 cup warm water. Stir in 1-1/3 cups warm water, brown sugar, and flour. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Let dough rise for 30 min.
2. Pre-heat oven to 475dF. On cook-top, heat 2 Tbsp Lye and 2 qts. water in saucepan. Do not boil, just steep. Make sure lye is well dissolved.
3. Tear off some dough and roll a long, thick pencil shape w/ hands. Pick up both ends, cross to form rabbit ears and twist the ends. Pull the ends back to make the "pretzel" shape (press the ends down a little so they stick). Set aside on a lightly floured surface and let rise a few minutes. Do this until you run out of dough. (I think it makes about 12 pretzels, but I can't remember exactly.)
4. Dip each pretzel in the lye bath for 1-2 seconds and place on a salted cookie sheet (you can use stainless steel tongs for this but you may want to wear latex gloves as well just to be safe... also the cookie sheet should be stainless as well. The lye will corrode other materials).
5. Salt top of pretzels and bake for 8-10 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.
6. Let them cool a little before serving, but they are best eaten warm out of the oven. Serve with your favorite German food. Preferrably, wurst, sauerkraut, and some spicy German mustard!