Pretzel

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imageFor The Dough
1 kg Plain White Flour (around 9 – 12 % protein)
260 ml milk (lukewarm)
260 ml water (lukewarm)
80 g Butter (unsalted)
1 tbsp malt extract (liquid or dried, or brown sugar)
2 tsp fast action dried yeast (or 42g fresh if using)
2 tbsp Salt (unrefined)

For The Finishing Solution
1 L Water
3 tbsp Baking Soda (or lye if your using it)

For Topping
Unrefined salt (Rock/ sea salt) or cheese & ham cubes

Add 100g of flour flour, all the yeast and the water into a bowl. Mix, cover with cling-film and leave in a warm place for 5 hours + to create the yeast flavour. After that, add the rest of the flour, salt, milk, malt extract and melted butter. Mix and kneed the mixture to make a firm dough (around 10 minutes) and leave for approx 1 and a half hours or until a point pushed in gentle springs back.
When ready, knock the dough back and start forming shapes. The easiest is to make batons around 2cm thick. If feeling adventurous, try the traditional shape. Roll the dough out to be a long (40 cm) rope with the middle 5cm bulged to a diameter of around 3 cm, tapering to the ends being around 0.75 cm thick. Bring the two ends together about 5 cm in, overlap them, twist, and bring back to go over the main body. Almost like tying a knot. Leave for 30 minutes uncovered in a warm room to rise and develop.
In the meantime bring the 1.5 litres of water to the boil in a large pot (around 20cm diameter) and add the baking soda. If you can find food grade sodium hydroxide (lye) use that at 3-4 tbs per litre, but be VERY careful and DO NOT let children near it. ALWAYS wear gloves and eye protection, or do as I do and go nowhere near it!
Once the dough has risen, place the trays next to a cold window with some wind blowing. A fan can be used if there is no breeze. This develops a skin on the pretzels which gives that special chewy texture. Once done drop the shaped dough into the boiling solution (one at a time) until they float (about 5 second), fish out with a fish slice (or similar) and lay on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with sea salt (lightly at first, you find your own taste preference later) and slash the dough to a depth of around 1cm in the thick part at the top-back. If you want to top with cheese, leave off the salt, and add the cheese once the pretzel is baked, so 5 to 10 minutes extra in the oven later.
Add the baking sheets to the 200C oven for around 16 minutes, until a nice deep bready brown is seen on the pretzels. Don’t go for gold or chestnut, go for brown, the flavour goes with it!
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. They taste good warm, but better when cooled and crisped. Great for eating with beer, on the go, with friends, or cut open and used as the base for cheese on toast.

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