49. German Pretzel Playtime

Pretzels, Pretzels, Pretzels!

Pretzels, Pretzels, Pretzels!

I discovered that I have a slight obsession with Pretzels on our recent visit to Berlin, where I bought many delicious chewy pretzels the size of my head. I really rather enjoyed Berlin, my first venture into German cusine! Traditionally Preztels are a savoury German snack, dipped in a rather caustic solution of lye to achieve the dark brown coating with the distinctive chewy texture.

In amongst the Curry Wursts, Strudels and Pork Knuckle I filled my self up on pretzels as often as I could. We explored the historic sites and the bohemian avenues in the post Christmas and wedding drizzle. Berlin was a very welcome change of scenery, with pickled herring and salmon for breakfast. I went all in with the Germanic food. My instagram feed became awash with a vast array of wonderful and interesting food. Nothing went undocumented!

Dough ready for some good kneading

Dough ready for some good kneading

Upon returning home I wanted to recreate some pretzel perfection, preferably without the hazardous solutions. No chemical burns for me please! Pretzels are made from a basic soft white bread dough recipe. The flour, yeast, oil and water should be mixed together in a big bowl until it can then be kneaded on a oiled board for 10 minutes. Once the dough is smooth and bounces back when pressed your kneading is done.

Kneaded dough ready to prove

Kneaded dough ready to prove

The dough can then be left to prove in a warm place in a greased plastic bag, for about an hour or two.

The proven preztzel dough

The proven pretzel dough

When the dough has doubled in size it’s ready to shape. This is probably the most complicated and time consuming bit of the entire pretzel making process. But it’s not as difficult as it may seem! I shall demonstrate in 10 easy steps…

Stage 1. Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 1. Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 1: Roll your dough to a sausage shape and cut into 12 equal pieces

Stage 2. Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they're all roughly the same size)

Stage 2. Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they’re all roughly the same size)

Stage 2: Roll your 12 pieces into balls (check that they’re all roughly the same size). Redistribute the dough to make sure you have equal sized dough balls here if needed.

Stage 3. Take one dough ball and leave the others covered with cling film in a greased bowl to stop them drying out. Roll your dough into the longest thinnest sausage you can make

Stage 3. Roll one dough ball into the longest thinnest sausage you can make

Stage 3: Take one dough ball at a time leaving the others covered with cling film in a greased bowl to stop them drying out. Roll your dough into the longest thinnest sausage you can make. Give the dough a good slap if you spot any air bubbles along the way. You need to pop any air bubbles to get a good even bake and to maintain your lovely pretzel shape.

Stage 4. Start shaping you sausage. Curl the dough into a circle but don't close the ends.

Stage 4. Start shaping you sausage. Curl the dough into a semi circle but don’t close the ends.

Stage 4: Start shaping your sausage. Curl the dough into a semi circle but don’t close the ends. You need those loose ends to finish your pretzel shape.

Stage 5. Bring the loose ends of the dough together and twist them up the centre of the circle

Stage 5. Bring the loose ends of the dough together and twist them up the centre of the circle

Stage 5: Take the loose ends of the dough and twist the strands together, one under the other up the centre of the pretzel circle.

Stage 6. Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms

Stage 6. Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms

Stage 6: Bring the loose ends two thirds of the way up the sides of the pretzel like arms. Reshape the circle of the pretzel as you go to keep the even shape.

Stage 7: Gently press the 'arms' of the pretzel into the dough to fix it in place.

Stage 7: Gently press the ‘arms’ of the pretzel into the dough to fix it in place.

Stage 7: Gently wrap the ‘arms’ of the pretzel around the pretzel. Gently press the arms into the dough to fix them in place.

Stage 8. Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray

Stage 8. Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray

Stage 8: Carefully line up your pretzels on a greased and lined baking tray. Cover them with greased cling film and leave them to prove again for another hour.

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking

Stage 9: Give each pretzel a good coat of egg wash and water and sprinkle with rock salt before baking. In hindsight I went a bit mad with the rock salt. It kind of burns the tongue when you put that much on! I might in the future smash up the rock salt with a pestle and mortar to get smaller chunks and sprinkle a much smaller amount on!

The baked pretzels

The baked pretzels

Stage 10: Give the pretzels a good baking in the oven for 15 -20 minutes at 200 degrees C. These are snack sized rather than the extra large pretzels that I was eating in Berlin, which could probably constitute a main meal. So if you wanted to make yours larger you could divide your dough into 6 lumps rather than 12 and shape them to your hearts content.

The golden pretzel

The golden pretzel

After a quick bake in the oven these mini pretzels beauties are ready to be devoured! The most complicated bit of the entire process is the shaping and after a couple of goes you soon get used to the technique. I’m sure you will end up developing your own pretzel twisting style too. I adore these pretty bread shapes and will most definitely be making them again. They look impressive, so you can wow your friends with your technical know how and let them imagine you’ve spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing treats for them.

Piles of Pretzels

Piles of Pretzels

They also taste amazing with their glistening golden crust. White bread can sometimes be a bit plain, but as the pretzel is thin it takes on the depth of flavour from the egg yolk and salt. Combined with the chewy texture, they are like a plaited bit of bread heaven.  You could even make sweet pretzels if you prefer, with cinnamon and sugar coatings, or add sesame seeds or poppy seeds for a bit of variation. Then you can enjoy them for breakfast lunch and dinner! I may attempt some wholemeal pretzels too to inject some health into my bread products. I will also be attempting extra large pretzels with the distinctive slash as soon as possible! Things I used to create Mini Pretzels Pretzel Dough Recipe

  • 350g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp instant dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 215ml of luke warmwater
  • 10ml olive oil

Egg Wash Topping

  • 1 egg yolk mixed with a tbsp of water
  • A sprinkling of rock salt to decorate
  • (Or you could dust them in cinnamon sugar, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds if you wish!)

Bake for 15-20mins until golden brown at 200 degrees C

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35. Merry Christmas! Stollen – Germany

Ok, ok, this may have been a long time coming (or perhaps I’m just ultra organised for this coming  prepared for Christmas)  BUT now it’s Summer it makes perfect sense to stop by Germany for a spot of Christmas Stollen. My wonderful baking friend Julie over at Sweetgum Bakery sent me a copy of her Patisserie course workbook (all the way from Australia I may add) which had this delicious recipe. I love this  book. It teaches you the techniques to create beautiful ‘bakery products for Patissiers’ including pastries and breads. I have already had a good go at a few things like  pretty dinner rolls pretending to be a real Patissier. This Stollen recipe  encompasses everything that I love about Christmas. Marzipan, spice, RUM and dried fruit. What’s not to love??

Stollen is for life, not just for Christmas

A stollen is a sweet, rich yeast dough laced with almond paste (or marzipan) and studded with dried fruit. Perfect for your Christmas celebrations (or any tea table al year round! Why deny yourself something so gorgeous just because it’s not December?!)  I may start just eating this all year round. I bet you could also make smaller Stollen buns or a Stollen Crown loaf, or a Stollen plait, or Stollen cupcakes! I might be getting carried away but the possibilities are endless.

Stollen is a traditional European dish which originated in Germany. You can vary the filling depending on your mood (or what’s in your cupboards) with flaked almonds, poppyseeds, or sultanas and candied peel. Whatever you prefer! Apparently you can also purchase Stollen tins to help keep the traditional shape during baking, but I am yet to find one. Although I’m sure it would be a wise investment indeed as I think mine spread a little on the baking sheet, but this didn’t stop it tasting lovely.

It’s always a good idea to pre soak your sultanas in a generous slosh of rum overnight to plump them up and enhance their flavour. It also adds to the festivities.

As with any yeast based dough it requires some proving time so make sure you have some time to spend with your Stollen. The recipe calls for compressed yeast. I was using instant dried yeast so adapted the method to suit.

Yeasty flour

Mix the 20g of  flour, 7g instant yeast (normally when I make a loaf of bread 500g of flour requires 7g of instant yeast so I used 1 sachet of Hovis instant yeast) and milk (200g)  together. Mix together then leave to prove for 20 mins in a warm place.

Yeasty batter

Add the rest of the flour (380g) to the mix along with an egg, lemon zest, lemon extract and sugar (100g). Mix all of the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film. Leave in a warm place to prove until it’s doubled in size

Buttery yeasty batter

Add the butter and mix it in until it becomes clear.

Proving time

Cover and leave the dough to prove again in a warm place, for an hour or so until it has doubled in size.

Dough has definitely doubled in size!

Knock back the dough and mix the sultanas, mixed peel (and optional nuts) in carefully, so as to not break the skins of the dried fruit.

Mixed Fruit

I used sultanas and cranberries (what I had in the cupboard!)

Fold in the fruit

Leave the dough to prove again for another half an hour, whilst you prepare the marzipan filling.

Making Marzipan Filling

Taking shop bought marzipan (120g) add the lemon zest and  an egg yolk and mix together to create a firm paste.

Marzipan paste

Divide the marzipan into 3 and roll into 3 long ‘logs’ (about 30cms long). I found my marzipan was a bit on the sticky side at this point so arranged it onto a sheet of cling film and rolled it inside the clingfilm. This made it a bit easier to move into the fridge to let it firm up a bit more.

Marzipan logs

Chilled Marzipan Logs

Take the dough and roll it out lightly with a rolling pin, into a rectangular shape. Aproximately 30cm long and 15 cms wide.

Flattened sticky fruity dough

Arrange the chilled marzipan logs in the centre of the flattened dough and fold the edges of the dough over to enclose the marzipan. Seal the edges of the dough.

Arranged Marzipan Logs

Place the dough, sealed edge down, onto a baking sheet greased and lined with greaseproof paper. Allow the dough to prove for the final time. Then bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Sealed and shaped stollen

Once it’s baked place on a wire rack to cool. While it’s still warm pour the melted butter over the top of the loaf. This step may feel a bit on the odd side, as when pouring a cup of melted over the Herman the German Friendship Cake  but believe me it’s utterly delicious.

Straight out the oven Stollen

After a day the butter seeps into all  of the available sweet dough crevices and infuses the Stollen with a gorgeous buttery moisture. It also helps to stop it from going stale so it can keep for a week (if you can bear to hang on to it for that long).

Soaked in butter Stollen

When it has cooled completely dust the Stollen with a generous dose of icing sugar, for added Christmas magic and sweetness. (It also helps to keep your fingers from getting all buttery and greasy.

Snowy Stollen

One of my friends told me this was her favourite bake so far in the aroundtheworldin80bakes challenge. I have to agree. I love the gooey marzipan layer sandwiched into the dough and I love the plump and juicy sultanas.

Snowy sliced Stollen

Although I think my dough didn’t rise quite as much as it should have, as it spread out on the baking sheet, it was most definitely worth the effort. To help spread the Stollen love and festive cheer I chopped it up into Stollen bites and took a batch to work and it quickly disappeared. A good sign indeed!

Stollen Bites

Does it feel like Christmas yet??

Extreme Stollen Close Up

yum yum yum

Just in case you would like to have a go here’s what I used to create this German Stollen

To make the initial yeast paste

  • Strong plain flour (20g) –
  • Instant yeast (7g)
  • Milk at 30 degrees C (200g)

Yeast Dough (add the yeast paste to)

  • Sugar (100g)
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)
  • Lemon extract (1g)
  • Butter (100g)
  • Strong Plain Flour (380g)
  • 1 egg
  • salt 3g

The Fruity Filling

  • Sultanas (pre soaked in a slosh of rum) (120g)
  • Mixed peel (25g)

The Marzipan Filling

  • Marzipan (120g)
  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • Lemon zest (1/4 tsp)

The Final Topping

  • Butter (melted) 40g
  • Icing Sugar (40g)