When it gets cold outside we bake Pretzels

You know what’s almost as awesome as hiking?

Baking bread.

That’s right. When the weather turns and the cold creeps into the house on weekends, I turn to baking to keep the family well fed and in good spirits.
One of my family’s favorite recipes is this pretzel recipe.

It’s almost time for Oktoberfest around the world, which means it’s time for beer and pretzels. If you follow me on Instagram, you know by now that baking pretzels is sort of my thing. I’ve been making this recipe now for many years, tweaking the ingredients and the method, all while posting countless Instagram pictures to make all my fans drool. You should join me there.

So, now dear The Outdoor Society readers, here it is: The most amazing pretzels you can bake at home (without using lye, which is a different story).

pretzel4!WARNING: Good food has gluten!

Inspiration: This recipe is adaptation from a recipe I found in Daniel Leader’s book Bread Alone. It is a wonderful bread baking book in which Daniel Leader, baker of famed ‘Bread Alone’ from Boiceville, New York tells the stories of his travels all over Europe, where he finds the most amazing local recipes from Italy, France, Germany, and other areas. Buy it — it’s worth every penny!

There is also another story still missing here. I should tell you about the time I pitched the pretzel idea to the Starbucks Bakery Department. That was many years before hipsters in Williamsburg started enjoying them in newly-opened, uber-cool beerhalls. It was way before every fast food joint adopted pretzel buns on their menu. I’m the original pretzel hipster!

 


The BEST brezel (that’s how it’s spelled in German) recipe in America.

(Makes 16, because why wouldn’t you want that many?)

Yes, all measurements are in grams, because if you’re baking and haven’t switched to grams, you are doing it wrong.

  • Flour 1000 grams.
    I use a 75/25 ratio of unbleached bread flour and whole wheat flour. You can use all bread flour, but I like them a bit denser so I add some whole wheat flour to the mix. You can adjust the ratios if you like, just stick with a 1000 grams.
  • The original recipe asked for unsalted butter 80 grams, cut into little 1/4 inch chunks. But in my experience vegetable or olive oil, same weight, works amazingly well. In fact I think they turn out to be a bit more crunchy and less “fatty”. Better for you too, I suppose.
  • Water, tepid 600 grams. Yepp, just water.
  • Instant yeast 10 grams.
  • Sea salt 25 grams, original recipe asks for 30 grams, but I find that a bit too much, considering that you are also sprinkling salt on the outside of the pretzel before baking.
  • Baking soda 80 grams.
    To be added to the water for boiling the pretzel before baking.
  • For topping, find salt that is in nice big chunks, so it doesn’t dissolve while baking.

pretzel3

1. Weigh out the flour, add it to a large mixing bowl and pour the oil into the flour and mix it all up. If you use butter, use a pastry cutter and cut the butter in chunks into the flour like you would for making scones.

2. Add the water and mix it all together into a rough dough.

3. Sprinkle the salt and yeast of the dough, mix a bit more and drop onto your lightly floured counter to kneed.

4. Knead for 10-15 minutes by hand until the dough is amazing. Smooth, springy, beautiful. Yes, kneading for that long is totally worth it!

5. Put the dough back into an lightly oiled mixing bowl and let rise in a warm place for an hour, until it’s doubled in size.

6. After at least an hour take the dough out of the bowl, divide it into 16 pieces with a pastry cutter and form pretzels. I looked at some Youtube videos and didn’t like any one, so I will have to make one myself someday. But in the meantime, you can make pretzel rolls, pretzel sticks, pretzel knots, pretzel anything… all delicious.
Lay them on a baking sheet. You need two sheets for 16 pretzels. I have silpats, but any non-stick paper underneath is good.

7. The original recipe now calls for “retarding” the pretzels in the fridge. This makes the dough a little harder and easier to handle when boiling. I don’t want to wait for the fridge to cool them down, so I pop them in the freezer. Just 20 minutes, or until my water boils is good enough for me.

8. Bring a big pot of water to a boil, and carefully! add the baking soda. Be really careful as the baking soda makes the water bubble up violently.

pretzel6

9. Add the pretzels to the simmering water, make sure you don’t crowd the pot. Boil them for 20 seconds on each side, take them out with a slotted spoon and arrange them on the baking sheet with space so they don’t touch each other.

10. Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 375 degrees for 35min. The original recipe calls for 350 degrees and 30-35 min. So play around with your oven and see what works. I like my pretzels crunchy on the thin pieces, so I leave them in the oven a bit longer.


 

pretzel1

Eat warm, with nothing but butter. Serve with chocolate milk, that’s how the Eichler’s are doing it. The pretzels also freeze really well if you put them in zip lock bags right after they completely cooled down. Take them out for lunches throughout the week. Or of course, to stay on message, take them hiking with you.

Guten Appetit!

This recipe I had posted once on my personal blog, then refined for a Medium post and now published here on The Outdoor Society – you’re welcome.

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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