As it’s that time of year and as I love a themed party, I decided to host an Oktoberfest-themed dinner. Apart from the Lebkuchen I have already posted, I also baked these beautiful pretzels to have with beers before the main event began. There is a micro-brewery and restaurant in Beechworth, Victoria that we used to visit on occassion (when it was a mere hours’ drive away) where they make pretzels so good and so authentic that our friend (of German heritage) used to commission us to bring home half a dozen for him to enjoy.
I can’t say that these pretzels are better than those at Beechworth (the best I’ve ever had) but they were very, very good. So good, in fact, that 24 pretzels managed to disappear between a dozen people in very short order.
Just a couple of hints with these pretzels; they are at their best served warm from the oven with a generous brush of butter and good sprinkling of salt flakes. I would not recommend serving them the day after baking. The other thing to note here is that they taste quite sweet and it might seem strange to be salting them and serving as a savoury snack. However, keep in mind, this is an American recipe that I served to a party consisting of mostly North American students. Which is to say, they were undoubtedly enjoyed by everyone present but a little more familiar to the North American tastebuds. Whether you’re wanting to make these for an Oktoberfest gathering or just missing hot pretzels like those readily available at food courts in Melbourne and Sydney, this is an easy, tasty recipe that is definitely worth your time.
- 4 tsp active dry yeast (I used one 7g sachet)
- 1 tsp white sugar
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup baking soda
- 4 cups hot water
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
Firstly, combine the warm water, yeast and salt in a bowl and leave for 10 minutes until frothy. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour and sugar and make a well in the centre.
When the yeast mixture has sat for long enough, pour into the centre of the flour together with the oil. Mix the dough together with a butter knife using a cutting action. I made this dough 3 times and found each time I had to add a significant amount of extra water (about 1/2 a cup) to get the dough to come together completely. Just add it gradually and knead well between each addition to ensure you don’t make the dough too wet.
Turn the dough out on the bench and knead for at least 5 – 8 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. In an oiled bowl, place the dough and cover for at least an hour to prove.
As you can see above, it hadn’t grown much in an hour. I ended up placing it in the oven (which had been on briefly for 5 minutes or so) for another hour, so it had a warm, draft-free place to prove.
Once the dough has risen sufficiently, divide it into 12 even pieces (I used my scales to get pieces weighing about 100g each but you can judge by eye if you like) and roll each one out into a sausage shape and then fold into the pretzel shape as shown below. At this stage, start heating your oven to 200ºc and line three baking trays.
In a clean mixing bowl, place the bi-carb soda and the boiling water and mix well. Dip each pretzel in the mixture and place on a lined baking tray. (They will stick badly to any un-lined parts so make sure the whole tray is covered). This dip gives them the distinctive ptrezel crust and flavour so please don’t skip this step.
The pretzels bake more evenly if folded like the pretzel on the bottom left in the picture below, rather than with the twist in the centre (which was a little thick to cook properly).
Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and place in the oven for 8-12 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool a little on the tray, before serving warm. As they cool, brush with the warm melted butter and sprinkle liberally with salt flakes.
As pictured above, you could also mix together some cinnamon and raw sugar and sprinkle this on after brushing the pretzels with butter to make ‘dessert’ pretzels instead.