Friday 6 August 2010

Soft & Chewy Sourdough Pretzels

Recently I have been hankering after pretzels. I don’t mean those small dried crispy kind, but the big, doughy, wonderfully chewy kind. The only problem is that they don’t seem to exist in the UK (apart from maybe in London which isn’t exactly nearby). I’ve only ever had two, what I consider, genuine pretzels – once in Germany on a school exchange trip and one last year in Chicago. They were so good and I’ve been longing to taste one again but although I’ve searched, I’ve never found one. On reflection though this could be a good thing as mass produced pretzels in the UK would probably result in some horrible dry cardboard tasting pretzel shaped bread – sort of like our bagels. A dense piece of bread with a hole it in, that has to be toasted to be edible, isn’t a proper bagel people – unless you’ve tasted freshly made genuine bagels you don’t understand the pure joy of a true bagel – again I have America envy. Ok, enough about bagels (but grrr it does annoy me) anyway back to pretzels. Unable to get my pretzel fix I decided the only option left was to make them myself.

I spent an interesting few hours sifting through many pretzel recipes online and finally settled on one by Alton Brown which had good reviews. Of course me being me I decided to adjust the recipe slightly to make use of my sourdough starter which I started a few months back.

The dough came together well and was quite sticky before its prebaking swim in a pot of boiling water. This is the same technique used for bagels; it tightens the gluten in the flour and results in a wonderfully chewy texture and glossy appearance.

Some of my pretzels came out a little misshaped but this made each one unique and obviously homemade which I loved. Once baked I took a bite and was rewarded with the taste and texture I had been hankering after for so long. A crisp golden surface and a soft, chewy interior with little hits of saltiness from the sea salt on top. Heaven!

I ate my first one dipping it in mustard – a tip I was shown in Chicago and then another one split in half and filled with a little cheese for lunch. The only problem is I was so excited about how they tasted like ‘real’ pretzels that I made my family taste them too and now there’s none left! Better go make some more…

Soft & Chewy Sourdough Pretzels
(Modified from pretzel recipe by Alton Brown)
200g sourdough starter
250ml warm water
475g strong white bread flour
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp salt
50g unsalted butter

Pre-baking liquid
2.5 litres water
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

To glaze
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
Coarse sea salt

*If you want to make non sourdough pretzels then add an extra 100ml water, 100g flour and 7g dried yeast.

Combine the water, sugar, flour, sourdough starter and salt in a large bowl. Melt the butter and drizzle this over the top.
Use a wooden spoon or spatula to start to bring everything together but then switch to your hands when it gets thicker. Mix the dough well, kneading it as well as you can until it begins to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead for 5-8 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and tacky to the touch rather than wet and sticky.
Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 – 1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 230C. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper and set aside. Bring the 2.5 litres of water and the bicarbonate of soda to a rolling boil in large saucepan.
Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a long rope, about 2 foot long/60cm. Make an upside down U-shape with the rope, holding each end in your hands. Cross the ends over each other twice, holding them above the bottom of the U. Then take the ends and press them into the base of the U to form a pretzel shape. Place them on the baking tray while you shape them all.
Lift each pretzel and place it gently, but quickly, into the pan of boiling water. Only do one at a time. It will sink to the bottom of the pan but after 30 seconds it should rise up and float to the top. Lift out using a large spatula and repeat with the rest of the pretzels. (This is what makes them lovely and chewy. They should be a little firmer and slightly glossy in appearance).
Beat the egg yolk and water together and brush over the tops of each pretzel. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until a rich golden brown colour.
Once baked, transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before enjoying warm – either on their own, dipped in mustard or split in half and filled.
Makes 8 large chewy pretzels
Note: Click here to see a video on how to shape pretzels. Here they’re making cookies, but technique applies to dough pretzels too.


Megan said...

I love homemade pretzels. Yours look divine!

oneordinaryday said...

There's nothing that tastes as wonderful as a pretzel fresh from the oven. AB's recipe rocks!

Caroline said...

They look lovely Katie. Thanks for the conversion to yeasted, I'm never quite sure how to convert yeast/sourdough and the great shaping pics. I'm sure the sourdough will have a superior flavour to the yeasted version!

I know what you mean about bagels though - shop bought and homemade are light years apart and now I'm craving bagels!

J e l e n a said...

I adore pretzels and chewy dough.I too searched and searched and now I make almost 3 times a month a batch of bavarian rolls (posted the recipe) which were first pretzels but the rolls are loved more in my husband can't go without them with soft cream cheese...I just make them and freeze a whole bag ....

Chele said...

Wowee! I've never been a fan of pretzels but then I've never tried the soft and chewy kind, just the crisp coardboard kind. The ones you have made look amazing!

Johanna GGG said...

we don't have proper soft pretzels in australia either - but when I tasted them in new york I was amazed at how good they are - it is one of my aims to make them one day and have them look as good as yours

Jessica said...

These look fabulous! And I am so glad that I can get a pretzel anytime here in USA! YUM! ;-)

ALIMENTA said...

MMmmmmmmm very good!!!

The Caked Crusader said...

Very impressive - they've come out perfectly! Love the idea of the mustard - must try that.

Sarah said...

Made these pretzels with my 15 year old daughter. She raved about how fun it was! As for taste - they were terrific. We both agreed we don't need the mall any longer!!

Monica H said...

I've tried this recipe and it is wonderful. It's so nice to be able to make different flavors out of one recipe. Now I want to make them again!

Gabby said...

These were very yummy!! I recommend making them a bit thicker then a pencil because wen they r too thin they can get a bit chewy. So yum with the garlic salt

SarahR said...

Oh yum ! My boys love these, I will have to try them x

Jenny said...

I did not have brown sugar or bread flour, so I used all AP flour, and I used 1/4 cup of honey. Turned out great! I followed the recipe exactly otherwise, with no problems.

Mariah said...

They were okay, I will keep looking for a pretzel recipe.

Jane said...

Supre easy recipe with amazing results! Loved them!

Tower Hamlets network security consultant said...

Very yummy and kids friendly. My son made alphabets and shapes. Good activity with bunch of kids.

vinyl siding installation richmond said...

Wow! These were insanely good I portioned the dough into 8 pretzels, and they were still a good size. They were gone a few hours after I made husband ate 4 in less than 10 minutes. I'm so glad I found this recipe!

Loopbaanadvies said...

I used only whole wheat flour as that was all I had so maybe that made a difference, but I have no idea what the reviewers who had problems with sticky dough did - my dough was actually a bit on the dry side! No problems with the water bath either, although I did blot the bottoms with a papertowel before putting them on a greased cookiesheet to reduce sticking (and had no problems with that either). I cut the recipe in half since so many people said the pretzels didn't keep well... I didn't have any problems here either? Then again, I didn't put any topping on them until just before eating (so the stored ones are 'naked') - at the mall they don't put the topping on until you request it and if it IS done beforehand, well, those pretzels have only been sitting there for a half hour or so! Oh, and just like I request at the mall, I use water to make my topping stick (spray bottle) instead of butter - trying to be healthy and all. :) Both me and my bf thought these made a great snack!

sam said...

I'm new to sourdough and I want to make these, but I'm wondering is the sourdough starter in the ingredients "discard starter" or active, recently fed starter?