Me and pretzels go waaaaaay back. I remember my first pretzel from a German delicatessen in Vancouver, still warm from their ovens and slathered with cold butter. I remember my Mom buying frozen pretzels from that same delicatessen to bake fresh on a Saturday morning, savoured with a little sausage, some strong cheese, coffee for her and fresh orange juice for me.
It’s been a long time since I had one of those pretzels… until last month at a bread workshop at the Vancouver Pastry Training Centre. This workshop was all about sourdough breads, but because they would all be finished on day 2, our instructor Marco snuck in a Bavarian Pretzel recipe so we all had something to take home on day 1. They were just like I remembered… soft, salty and super tasty. The only part of the process that scared me was dipping them in the lye solution. Although it turns into an inert salt while baking, it requires safety gloves, goggles and extra caution to not drip it on the counter, your clothing etc. Yikes. Not to mention I found it awfully tricky to find food grade lye I could order myself.
I’ll let you all know up front, these Bavarian Spelt Pretzels are dipped in a strong baking soda solution, not lye. Baking soda imitates the alkaline lye solution and gives the pretzels a similar taste, but it’s not exactly the same. Even so, these spelt pretzels are still soft, salty and exceptionally tasty. My favorite way to eat them is by pulling off chunks, slapping a piece of really cold butter on it and stuffing it in my mouth. Nothing else needed! 😀 Of course you can also slice them in half and create a pretzel sandwich, but the patience of my tastebuds don’t usually last long enough for that to happen.
If you liked this recipe you are going to love these ones!
Bavarian Spelt Pretzels
- 500 grams organic unbleached, all-purpose spelt flour also called white spelt flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp organic sugar
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 20 grams (1.5 tbsp) butter at room temperature
- 230 ml water at room temperature
- course salt for sprinkling on top
Alkaline Pretzel Bath
- 8 tbsp baking soda
- 750 ml water
Make the Dough
In a large bowl combine the spelt flour, instant yeast, sugar and salt. Add the water and butter and combine with your hands until the dough comes together.
Empty the dough onto a work surface, cover with the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. This rest allows the spelt flour to fully absorb the water.
Remove the bowl and gently knead the dough until it is smooth (about 4 minutes). Time yourself as you don't want to overwork the dough and break the delicate spelt gluten. Cover the dough with plastic or a dish cloth and let rest for another 15 minutes.
Uncover the dough and divide into 10 equal portions. If you have a kitchen scale, each portion should be around 76g. Shape each portion into a boule, then cover them all and let rest for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, line two large baking sheets with parchment paper, creasing and folding the edges of the paper to ensure only the bottoms of the baking sheets are covered.
Shape the Pretzels
To form each pretzel, take one ball of dough, flip it over so the seam side is up and flatten it into a rectangle shape with the heel of your hand. Fold one long side into the middle, seal the seam with the heel of your hand, fold the other long side into the middle and seal that seam with the heel of your hand. Fold in half and seal the seam against the work surface with the heel of your hand.
With the sealed seam side facing up, roll the dough out to approximately 2ft long using the palms of both hands. Apply more pressure to the edges of the dough to create thin strands with a fat middle.
Turn the seam side down and bring both strands towards you on the work surface. Take the end of each strand in one hand, cross them over each other twice, flip the ends over and press each end deeply into either side of the fat middle.
Repeat the shaping for each ball of dough and then transfer each pretzel to the parchment lined baking sheets. Cover and let the pretzels rest at room temperature for approximately 60 minutes (or until pretzels have swelled and look poofy). This could take longer or shorter depending on how cool or warm your room temperature is.
Prepare the Alkaline Bath
In a medium saucepan, bring the water and baking soda to a slow boil. Stir often and continue to boil until the majority of the baking soda has dissolved.
Lower the heat to low and keep warm until ready to use.
Bake the Pretzels
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and pour the warm alkaline solution into a medium bowl.
With a slotted spatula, remove each pretzel from the baking sheet, dip it into the alkaline solution and return it to the baking sheet. Don't worry if the dough stretches a little during this dipping process as it is forgiving and the shape can be adjusted after returning it to the baking sheet.
Repeat the dipping process with all 10 pretzels. Sprinkle course salt over the belly of each pretzel and using a very sharp knife or bread lame, slash the belly of each pretzel horizontally.
Bake one sheet at a time for 15 minutes or until dark brown. Serve warm or just cooled. Freeze any pretzels that will not be eaten on the same day as they dry out quickly.