Sarah and I are recent converts to the soft pretzel. Chewy, salty and dipped in mustard, served with a cool beer in a glass as big as a boot. We ate them in California where the sun was shining and the air was hot. Where after a day of adventures a beer in a glass as big as a boot was a welcome distraction. In Melbourne right now the days are closing in on themselves early afternoon and riding anywhere requires thick woollen gloves, a raincoat and a deep breath before setting out. It feels decidedly unCalifornian. But pretzels aren’t Californian, they come from wintery lands that freeze, and howl with arctic winds. Perfect for Melbourne right now.
I love weaving the dough into the pretzel shape, making a pretty knot. Then watching them brown in the oven to their salty, golden crust. Boiling them in the baking soda water is the tricky bit. It requires a delicate touch. These are best eaten on the day they’re made. Start proving, and weaving the dough early afternoon and serve on these cold evenings as a hearty beer snack. Watch the dough get ripped apart and devoured quick as.
This recipe adapted from Los Angeles chef Hans Rockenwagner and previously published in our Stars and Stripes article in Yen magazine.
Makes 8 pretzels.
These are best eaten warm, straight out of the oven. They should be chewy and taste slightly sweet, salty and a little bitter. As they bake they should develop a beautiful brown crust.
3 ¾ cups bread flour (and a little more for dusting)
1 ½ cups warm water
1 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
course sea salt to finish
½ cup of baking soda
2 litres water, boiling
In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook combine the flour, water, yeast, salt, butter and process on medium for a couple of minutes. Increase the speed to high and process until an elastic dough forms around the dough hook (about 10 minutes). Transfer the dough to a floured surface – the dough will be sticky, so flour your hands too. Cover the dough with a dry, clean tea towel and let sit for 5 minutes. Cut the dough into 8 equal portions and form each into a ball. Re-cover and let sit for another five minutes.
On an unfloored surface roll each ball into a 45cm long rope tapering slightly at the ends. To shape each pretzel form the rope into a U shape. Cross the ends over each other twice to form the twist then bring the ends to the bottom of the U and press the tips onto it. Arrange the pretzels on two large baking sheets, on baking paper and let stand uncovered in a warm place for 45 minutes or until slightly risen. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
Preheat oven to 200C. Add baking soda to the pot of boiling water and stir. Carefully boil eat pretzel for 30 seconds and drain on a wire rack. Salt and bake for 20 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Serve warm with a mild mustard.