“Although supposedly invented by an Italian monk, pretzels are most associated with Germany, where they are often eaten with mustard and a pint of beer,” says Edd Kimber.
“Germany is also where pretzels began to be dunked in a lye (caustic soda) solution before baking, to give them their characteristic colour and flavour. Thankfully, bicarbonate of soda can be used instead of lye, and if you bake it first, the results are surprisingly good.”
250g strong white bread flour
½tsp fine sea salt
3g dried fast-action yeast
25g unsalted butter, at room temperature
130ml lukewarm water
1tbsp barley malt extract or honey
Vegetable oil, for greasing and brushing
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling
For the pre-baking solution:
50g barley malt extract
50g bicarbonate of soda
1. Place the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl and stir together. Add the butter and rub into the mixture until there are no visible lumps. Make a well in the centre and pour in the water and malt extract. Mix together to form a shaggy dough, then tip onto a work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside for one to two hours, until doubled in size.
2. Divide the dough into four equal pieces and roll them into balls. Cover and leave them to relax for 10 minutes. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and brush with oil or mist with a little non-stick cooking spray.
3. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it into a smooth rope roughly 60–65cm long, leaving the centre of it a little thicker than the ends. Arrange the rope in a U-shape with the ends facing you. Take both ends, cross them over once, then lift up and press onto the curved part of the rope at the top, forming the traditional pretzel shape. Transfer to the prepared tray and cover lightly with clingfilm while you make another three pretzels in the same way. Set aside for 30 minutes, before transferring to the refrigerator for one hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C Fan) 400°F, Gas Mark 6. To make the pre-baking solution, bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the malt extract and bicarbonate of soda and whisk to combine. Turn the heat off, then place one pretzel at a time place in the liquid for one minute. Lift out with a slotted spoon, return to the baking tray and sprinkle liberally with sea salt flakes.
5. Use a sharp paring knife to slit along the thicker part of the pretzels, then bake for 15–18 minutes, or until a rich mahogany brown. Leave to cool for a few minutes before eating. The pretzels will keep for up to two days after baking, and can be frozen for up to a month.
Small Batch Bakes by Edd Kimber is published by Kyle Books, priced £18.99. Photography by Edd Kimber. Available August 25.
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