Many of us have had pretzels but have you tried pretzel bread? The first time I had pretzel bread was back in 2007, the year this blog began and I paid a visit to Vienna (Austria) for a 3 day stay on my way back to Canada from Greece. When one walks Vienna’s streets, one will pass countless displays of sweets (including the famous Sacher Torte), the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee is everywhere and you’ll soon notice that many types of bread will tantalize you at bakeries, cafes and markets.
This past September found me attending a wedding – the food was nothing special but the bread basket included some pretzel bread. I reached for a small loaf, opened it with my hands and smeared butter into the soft, brioche like inside. These savory breads with a hint of sweetness took me back to Vienna and I found myself almost fighting with a boy at the table who also wanted more.
No, I didn’t strong-arm the lad but I did have 2 mini-loaves. I’ve been craving these ever since and now, I can make them at a whim. The production of this bread doesn’t take too long by bread making standards but they get poached (kinda like bagels do) before going into the oven. The pretzel bread can be made into round rolls. small sandwich-sized batards (loaves). I would make them into regular sized loaves but that would mean using a large pot of water and carefully removing them without damaging their shape.
Many recipes for pretzels and pretzel bread use a food-grade lye in the water for poaching the pretzel bread. There is nothing wrong with this method but I’ve found the combo of baking soda and sugar up to the task of making excellent pretzel bread. If you want your pretzel bread to have a nice sheen to them, brush with egg wash then sprinkle with coarse Kosher or sea salt.
(approx. 12 small loaves)
4 tsp. of active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 cup warm milk
2 cups tepid water
3 Tbsp. melted butter
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
4 1/2 -5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. sea salt
extra flour for work surface
For poaching the bread
approx. 5 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg, well beaten with a splash of water
coarse sea salt
Pre-heated 400F oven
- In a large bowl add your brown sugar, yeast, warm water, milk, melted butter and oil and swirl with a spoon and allow 10 minutes for the yeast to activate. In the meantime, add the flour and salt in another bowl and stir with a fork. When you see the yeast has activated, pour the flour into the wet ingredients and stir in with a wooden spoon (add more flour if too wet/more water if too dry). Knead into a shiny ball of dough that should only slightly stick. Rub oil on the dough, cover in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to double in size for about an hour.
- When dough has doubled, sprinkle flour on your work surface and divide into 12 equal pieces and form fold the dough down and inward to form round balls. Sprinkle flour on each loaf and allow to rise for n hour. After an hour, press down on each dough ball and stretch out then reform into the shape of a small loaf (batard) or boule (round loaf). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again for one more hour.
- After an hour, place a pot of water on your stovestop and add the sugar and baking soda and bring up to gentle boil. In the meantime, cover two large baking trays with parchment paper and treat with cooking spray. At this point you may pre-heat your oven (set rack to just below the middle).
- When thw water starts to boil, place about three loaves (facing down) in the water at a time and poach for 30 seconds on each side. Use a spider or spatula to remove the dough from the water and gently place on your baking trays.
- Brush each load with eggwash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. When the oven reaches 400F, slash your loaves and place in the pre-heated oven for 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool ( I bet you will eat one when it’s still hot!)
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