Today I’m presenting you with a simple and healthy (=baked not deep fried!) pretzel recipe. Did you know people ate pretzels as old as 610 AD?!! In latin, pretzel means “little arms”, representing arms of little kids crossed when praying. Bach then, they were actually prizes given by monks to children who had memorized their Bible verses! Maybe this is why they are a symbol of good luck and prosperity! (1)
As a proof of how old Pretzels are, Pieter Bruegel in 1559 drew this painting in which you can see in the right hand corner he drew several pretzels in a woman’s wagon (2 , 3) How cool is that?!! I would have never thought a food can go through 5 centuries without it’s shape or basic recipe being changed!
Now, as far as my 21st century pretzel is concerned, the only topping I used on it was sesame seeds. However, you can whatever you like practically! Some examples are seeds (sunflower, poppy,caraway), course salt (called pretzel salt), melted cheese(e.g. Parmesan and garlic) or even herbs and spices ( such as basil or cinnamon and sugar).
You can also serve the plain pretzel with a dipping sauce (try a melted cheese sauce, mustard sauce or hot chocolate sauce). Another option is to add Parmesan cheese or chocolate chips to the dough batter before baking so that when you bite through the pretzel, you can taste the cheese/chocolate flavours all through it, not just the in the topping. Still not satisfied? Well then, you will definitely love a pretzel burger or pretzel dog!!
The recipe here is from Caroline Bretherton, in one my favourite baking books Step-by-Step Baking.
- 350g strong bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 150 g plain flour
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried yeast
- 1 tablespoons sunflower oil ( I used light olive oil and it still tasted amazing)
- 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 1 egg
2. Pour 300 ml of lukewarm water in a bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir and then set aside for 5 minutes.
3. Add the oil to the yeast mixture.
4. Gradually add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients in step 1, until you end up with a soft dough.
5. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap or a damp tea towel and let rise in warm place for 1:30 hours, or until doubled in size.
7. Turn the dough on a floured surface and punch it back gently.
8. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces.
9. Form each dough piece to a lot shape first, and then roll into a 45 cm “rope”.
10. Line an oven baking sheet with baking paper.
11. For each piece of “rope” dough, place it on sheet, take the ends, twist once, to form a cross, and twist again, then fold the ends back over the circle formed until they touch the other side.
12. Repeat for all pieces of dough.
12. Cover with cling film or tea towel and let rise about 30 minutes.
13. Preheat oven to 200C.
14. Place the baking soda in a bowl and add two tablespoons of boiling water. Stir to combine.
15. Using a pastry brush, brush all the unbaked pretzels.
16. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the pretzels.
17. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
18. Remove from the oven, brush with a bit of beaten egg, then bake for a further 5 minutes. Watch the pretzels, you want to achieve a golden brown color.
19. Remove from oven, and let cool on a wire rack.