Sunday, February 7, 2010

Brezen: Putting the Bayrisch in Pretzel

Pin It




There are two things that make breakfast in Bayern a worthy subject of a love poem:

(1) Chocolate slabs manufactured for the express purpose of depositing them upon a fresh slice of bread schmeared with butter

and

(2) soft pretzels.

There are two things that make dinner in Bayern a worthy subject of a love poem:

(1) pork happy wurst

and

(2) soft pretzels.

There are two things that make Oktoberfest in Bayern a worthy subject of a love poem:

(1) hearty local beer with an expiration date

and

(2) soft pretzels.

The choco schnitten, sausauge and local German beer are a little hard to come by in the states. The brezen, however, are yours for the making.

BREZEN

There are two things in this recipe that are “make ahead” ingredients and they too are worthy of a love poem. The first is pretty fast: bacon fat. Fry up bacon, drain fat into an appropriately glorious vessel to contain the glory that is bacon fat and then leave it to harden. The second isn’t so fast: sourdough starter. The recipe for starter is on the blog and for complete disclosure, it takes at least two weeks for starter to come to baking life. So you can feel free to replace the ¼ cup of starter with another packet of dry yeast but I won’t lie. I’ll be disappointed if you leave it out.

Ingredients

1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (available in most health food stores)
3 cups flour
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup baking soda set aside to stir into the boiling water NOT to put into the dough.

kosher, pretzel or large flake fleur de sel for sprinkling on top of pretzels

Egg Wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water and set aside) Have a pastry brush handy.

In bowl of electric mixer, bloom yeast on cup of warm water (by blooming I mean allow the water and yeast to mingle until the yeast gets foamy. This usually takes a minute or two.) Once the yeast is looking lively, add 1/4 cup sourdough starter and 1 cup flour. (If you’re skipping the starter, bloom both packets with the 1 cup water). Mix with dough hook until a wet paste forms. Allow to rest, covered, for an hour or so in a warm place.

Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE BAKING SODA and EXTRA PRETZEL SALT and mix with dough hook until smooth dough is formed. Allow dough to rest until doubled in a bowl spritzed with non-stick cooking spray. Spray a little non-
stick over the dough as well and cover with plastic wrap.

Once dough has doubled, on a flour dusted work surface roll the dough into a 12 in log and cut into eight even pieces. Shape into pretzels by stretching dough into a 6 inch strip, leaving the middle thicker than the ends. Shape into a “U”, cross the ends and press down. Wait. That makes no sense. Just go to this great post on shaping pretzels. Feel free to use this dough to make pretzel rolls or ersatz bagels (see picture below). Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal to insure the dough doesn't stick so you can easily pick up the raw dough and transfer to the boiling water. Allow to proof until almost doubled.
(is it a bagel is it a pretzel? it's a batzel!)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Fill a stockpot with water and bring to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of baking soda and bring back to a boil. Gently slide the risen pretzels into the boiling baking soda water for twenty seconds and then flip them and allow to stay in the water 20 seconds more. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Brush pretzels with egg wash and then sprinkle with large flake salt.

Before you put the pretzels in the oven, go to the freezer and grab a couple ice cubes and toss them into the oven so they're melting on the bottom among the forgotten bits of last Thanksgiving's dressing. Close the door and count to ten. Open the door and put in the pretzels. This creates a steam environment that makes that nice crust on the pretzel. Bake until dark golden brown, about twenty minutes.

Eat for breakfast, with some gorgeous pork laced sausage or a beer. Or just squirt French's mustard on it. Mahlzeit.