Sourdough Pretzels

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Ursi says, “I love pretzels! I could eat them every single day . . . maybe it’s because I’m Bavarian”. Pretzels are usually dipped in a solution of sodium hydroxide (lye) prior to baking, which gives them their characteristic taste and shiny brown skin. As food-grade sodium hydroxide can be hard to obtain and is hazardous to handle, this recipe uses bicarbonate of soda/baking soda instead, which gets you safely toward a similar result.

FROM MIXING TO OVEN: 12–16 hours
BAKING TIME: 15–20 minutes

Ingredients

For the Pre-Ferment

  • 125g/oz/¾ cup plus 2 tbsp wholemeal/wholewheat bread flour
  • 20g/ tbsp rye sourdough starter
  • 100g/oz/½ cup minus 1 tbsp water

For the Dough

  • 375g/13oz/2⅔ cups white bread flour
  • 25g/1oz/2 tbsp butter
  • 8g/ tsp fine/table salt
  • 160g/oz/ cup water

For Dipping

  • 1kg/2lb 4oz/ cups water
  • 20g/heaping tbsp bicarbonate of soda/baking soda

For the Topping

  • coarse sea salt flakes or crystals, or you could use sesame seeds, poppy seeds or caraway seeds

Method

  1. Mix the pre-ferment ingredients together, cover and leave at room temperature for 8–12 hours until bubbly.
  2. Mix the dough ingredients with the pre-ferment, and knead until you have a firm but supple dough: tighter than usual, but if it really is too stiff to work, add a little more water. Put the dough into a bowl, cover and leave to rise at room temperature for a further 3 hours, giving the dough a single fold halfway through this time.
  3. Divide the dough into 12 equal-size pieces (65g/oz), roll into balls, cover and leave for 20 minutes, then roll each piece into a strand about 25cm/10in long that tapers at the ends with a little belly in the middle. Bend each strand into a “U” shape, cross one side over the other about halfway up, give it a twist where they cross, then fold the ends up to meet the bend of the U and press down gently to fix in place. Cover the dough and leave to prove for 45–60 minutes.
  4. Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment and heat the oven to 230°C/210°C fan/450°F/gas 8. Meanwhile, bring the water to the boil in a large pan and add the bicarbonate of soda/baking soda. Drop the pretzels into the boiling liquid 2 or 3 at a time for 20 seconds, lift out with a slotted spoon and place onto the baking sheet. Immediately sprinkle with the topping of your choice while the dough is still tacky. Slash the dough at its fattest part and bake for 15–20 minutes until deep brown.

URSI WIDEMANN
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