I came back from a trip on Sunday with hundreds of pictures of places in Serbia, people and food. It will take some time to sort them out, but I hope to be able to make a few interesting posts, as I felt inspired while photographing. But first things first - Bavarian pretzels, a post that has been waiting in the queue long enough.
A few years back I was thrilled to finally be able to buy them in London,when Mr Pretzel was opened at the Victoria Station.
The joy didn't last, though. Very soon I realised that the pretzels I was buying were just a replacement for Bavarian pretzels I was used to and my pretzel a day routine slowly faded away. Then, I stopped going to the Victoria Station and Mr Pretzel was suddenly out of my reach. I don't need to tell you that Mr Pretzel's pretzels in my nostalgic mind very quickly became the best I ever tasted.
That coincided with the time I started this blog, so making a post about pretzels was an immediate and obvious choice. I wish I made pictures of a total baking debacle, which occurred despite the fact that I read every single on-line article available on the subject. Luckily, I chose to make them with soda bicarbonate, not a lye solution and possibly prevented a huge disaster from happening.
One true pretzel lover is not easily put off by a "minor" set back, so I am presenting my first batch of pretzels.
This time round, I followed the Leiths recipe from Baking Bible, and using a previously mentioned experience, I made a few adjustments.
To make 15 of this "crossed arms" you need:
The starter: 5g fresh yeast, 50 ml water, 4 tablespoons flour, pinch of sugar
The dough: 10g fresh yeast, 110 ml warm water, 110 ml warm milk, 2 teaspoons sugar, 30 g melted butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt,450 g bread flour
If you are using dry yeast for this recipe or any other that requires fresh yeast, use this simple converting method :
from fresh yeast to dry - divide amount by 3 ( 15 g of fresh yeast = 5g of dry)
from dry yeast to fresh - multiply by 3 (7 g of dry = 21 of fresh)
For the start, mix the ingredients, cover with cling film and leave at room temperature for at least 2 hours and then stir in the rest of the yeast, sugar, milk, water and butter and add sifted flour. Knead thoroughly until the dough is smooth. Place it in an oiled bowl and coat the dough with a little bit of oil. Leave it to rise for about one hour or until is doubled in size. knock the dough back and divide into 15 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 50 cm long, bumpy in the middle, thinner towards the ends. Shape them like demonstrated on the pictures and place on lined baking trays. Refrigerate for about one hour. In the meanwhile, boil about 1 litre of water using a pan just a little bit larger then your pretzels, then add 3 tablespoons of soda bicarbonate.
Preheat the oven to 190 C/375 F/ gas mark 5.
Poach pretzels one by one in the simmering water, using fish slice (turner) on each side for not longer then 10 seconds, place briefly on a clean towel to drain and move to the baking tray. Using a sharp knife cut along bumpy middle, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden-brown.
Cool on a wire rack. They are best served warm..