Working Towards A Dream – Part 1

I’m on vacation this week, which means I’m finally able to start working towards my goal of getting good enough at baking that I could one day make baking and pastry a viable career. I’m starting easy, or easier than others at least, in trying to make a good pretzel bread. Ever since eating those pretzel rolls (made by Labriola Baking Co) at Kuma’s Corner, I’ve been obsessed with trying to recreate that taste at my house. Pretzel bread has usurped potato bread as my current baked good.

My first few attempts were interesting to say the least. The first loaf tasted the most pretzel like (in my opinion), but I put on too heavy an egg glaze, and the crust ended up so hard that it was more like a regular loaf of bread than a Bavarian pretzel. It didn’t help that I didn’t put a glaze of butter on the final product either.

My second attempt was to make actual pretzels for a party. My goal was to make them whole wheat and vegan, since a good portion of the people at the party were vegan. The pretzels were a bit heavy, but decent. They weren’t what I was looking for.

So, I decided to do some research. I scoured the web for various pretzel bread and Bavarian pretzel recipes, hobbling together something that I thought I would like. I figured, each day I would try something a little different, because ultimately, experimentation is the best way to learn about cooking.

So, I started with the recipe offered over at the Fresh Loaf. He also covers the various ways that pretzels can be prepared. As he mentions, a true Bavarian pretzel is bathed in a lye solution before being baked. While that may be a traditional method, I don’t have access to lye, nor do I want to. I saw Fight Club. I know what would happen, especially with my penchant for accidentally spilling things. I decided to add some butter to my first batch, to see how the taste would differ.

Pretzel Bread (Adapted from The Fresh Loaf)

  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm milk (approximately 110 degrees)
  • 1 tablespoon malt powder or brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2-3 cups all-purpose unbleached or bread flour
  • Pretzel or kosher salt
  1. In a large bowl, mix the instant yeast with the warm milk.
  2. Add all other ingredients, except the flour. Let rest for 10 minutes so the yeast can activate.
  3. Add 2 cups of the flour and blend completely. Add the remaining cup of flower as needed until the dough is firm, and doesn’t stick to your hands.
  4. Knead the dough for 2 minutes.
  5. Cover the bowl with saran wrap, and let the dough rise for about an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400.
  7. Gently degas the dough.
    1. At this point, you can either form one giant loaf of bread, split it in half forming two smaller loaves.

At this point, the fun begins. I tried two different methods for the final preparation. One was simply brushing a beaten egg over the loaf, and the other was boiling it for 30 seconds in a baking soda solution.

Baking Soda Solution

  • 2 quarts of water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  1. Bring water to a boil and add the baking soda.
  2. Drop the loaf carefully into the water, letting it boil for no more than 30 seconds. Turn it once to make sure it’s completely submerged.
  3. Using a slotted spoon or sieve drain the water off the dough and transfer it to a greased baking sheet.

Sprinkle the boiled, or egg brushed, bread with the salt and put into the oven. In my oven, the baking in either case took between 20 and 25 minutes. The longer the baking time, the darker the crust. Remove the bread from the oven, and move to a baking rack. Make sure to brush a coating of melted butter over the loaves to guarantee a soft crust. Otherwise, you’re going to get a very crusty bread.

Which bread tasted better? The egg crust was softer and more delicate, as was the bread itself, but I found myself preferring the boiled bread more. The crust was soft, but the bread was slightly chewier like a real pretzel.

Tomorrow, I plan on trying a different recipe, this time relying on a cup of water with 2 Tablespoons of milk added, as opposed to a cup of milk. I want to see what the main difference is. And hey, the more bread, the merrier.

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