Friends and followers will know that I’m mad keen on Eurovision. This time last year we were celebrating in Switzerland. Tacky songs, trashy outfits, out of tune and out of step – what’s not to love? The only real tragedy in recent years has been the move by many countries to sing in English and the fact that most contestants now take it seriously.
Of course Eurovision is also about the food and this year, our friends Michelle and Tony were ‘lucky’ enough to host our annual Sunday night Eurovision Party. For those not in the know, Germany hosted this year so it was fabulous kranskys from Heinz Butcher Shop at Woolloongabba, home made German Potato Salad and Black Forest Brownies for dessert. Throw in some really deliciously chewy Gingerbread made by Cath and it was a Teutonic blast. Although it was verboten to bring anything, I couldn’t resist either so I tried my hand at a novelty item – Bretzels (pretzels to we English speakers).
There appears to be a lot of steps in this recipe but it actually takes very little time to put together and is quite easy. It would be a fun recipe to do with kids – they would definitely enjoy the Bretzel tieing.
- 7g sachet dried yeast
- 1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (375ml)
- 4 1/2 cups plain flour (560g)
For the ‘bath’ you will need
- 2 cups of hot water
- 1 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda
- Place yeast, sugar and 375ml warm water in a bowl and stir to dissolve sugar and distribute yeast. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow yeast to activate.
- Place flour and salt into large mixing bowl and add water/yeast mixture. Gently combine using a knife until it is just coming together.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 – 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic in texture.
- Place dough in greased bowl and cover lightly with clingfilm. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour to allow dough to prove. (I live in Qld so there is no such thing as a ‘cold place’ but if it is a cool day or your kitchen has a draft, just place the bowl in the microwave or cold oven and close the door whilst the dough rises. Do not turn the microwave or oven on!)
- After the dough has risen, press some of the air out (known as ‘knocking down’), divide into 12 equal pieces and roll each into a 30cm rope roughly the thickness of two pencils. Allow to rest for 15 minutes – they will rise slightly during this period.
- Tieing the Bretzels! – this is not as difficult as it appears. With the rope horizontal and flat on the bench, take one end of the rope and loop it away from you, bringing the end back towards you and crossing over the rope. Repeat with the other end. Make sure that the ends of the rope cross over one another.
- Pre heat oven to 230c. Combine the hot water and bi carb in a saucepan or heatproof mixing bowl.
- Dip each pretzel into the ‘bath’ for a few seconds. I placed the pretzel between two spatulas to keep the pretzel flat and keep my fingers out of the hot water.
- Place each dipped pretzel on baking paper on a tray and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Bake in hot oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
Some notes and ideas:
- Warm or tepid water is sufficient to activate the yeast. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast.
- Bread flour would be great but I can never get it so I just used plain old organic flour from the supermarket.
- You really do need to dip the pretzels in the ‘bath’. It contributes to their overall chewiness, which is so characteristic of pretzels. The traditional bath is lye but that’s way too complicated and dangerous for us!
- Try the traditional Germanic bakery staple of caraway seeds instead of or, as well as, salt.
- I did try brushing half the batch with milk before I put on the salt but it made no discernible difference in colour or taste.
- These have no fat in them so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you melted a little butter and brushed it over them when they come out of the oven.