I checked my email with the SRC assignment while on my way back from Phoenix, on our four hour drive to our small mining town.
As soon as I clicked on the link Jane (our group’s hostess and such a dedicated member) sent me, I was literally bowled over by the ingenuity of the dishes Allesio’s blog had. Seriously it was like reading the menu of some Michelin starred restaurant. Case in point- Dark chocolate eggplant. Seriously, who thinks of that!!
There is no bound to the creativity on his site. But honestly, I was intimidated as hell. Having never worked with half of the ingredients on the site, I couldn’t help it. But at the same time, I was loving the challenge ahead.
Just check his top 24 of 2012 list. Seriously, if you are not intimidated its only because you are a professional chef and even then I won’t blame you if you are taking notes!
After drooling over his various photographs and increasing my knowledge pool of recipes, I narrowed on something that I knew I could make and would enjoy making at the same time.
Brezeln is german for soft pretzels. As bread, Brezeln are very versatile with toppings varying from melted crunchy cheese, garlic butter, herbs or seeds and are mostly served as a savory snack. Check out Allesio’s post to know a little more about its history.
A version of Brezeln is Bierbrezeln or big doughy dark brown knots made from beer.
Dark beer has naturally a deeper more complex flavor and beer also enhances the yeast activity for a faster proofing time. Since they don’t get the dipping in the alkali solution like traditional pretzels, these Bierbrezeln are glazed with an egg wash like normal pastries. The more coats you brush on them, the shinier and darker they will be.
Pretzels actually gets their distinctive flavor from boiling the buns in baking soda water. When the soda reacts with the water, it aerates the yeasted dough into puffiness and imparts the flavor as well. But Alessio’s version did not require any boiling. One less step. Plus (and a BIG plus) it involved beer! I was totally sold!
I did not have dark beer and just used what I had. Plus, I did not know where to use the butter called for in the original recipe, so I skipped that ingredient altogether and honestly I do not miss it in the pretzels. Either way its just 10 grams so you could add it in and I am assuming it goes into the dough.
The shape of the Pretzel is thought to resemble folded arms during prayers, and the three holes in it are supposed to represent the Holy Trinity. Apparently, the Holy Trinity did not want to bless my pretzels.
I knotted them twice and that’s why I assume I did not get the traditional shape. next time, one knot it shall be.
Whatever the shape, these tasted great. In fact I am snacking on one while writing this post!
- 250 gms all purpose flour (I used a mix of bread flour and AP flour)
- 10 gm (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp sugar
- 130 ml dark beer
- 1 tsp salt
For the glaze:
- 1 yolk
- 1 tbsp dark beer
To sprinkle on top:
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Caraway seeds
- Nigella seeds
- In a bowl add the yeast and sugar to the beer, along with some flour. Mix well and let sit for 20 minutes.
- Add the remaining flour and salt into the yeast mixture. Knead to make a smooth and elastic dough.
- Coat the dough with some oil and cover the bowl with a wet cloth. Let proof for 30 minutes.
- Put two racks in the oven- one in the middle and the other below it.
- Preheat oven to 220C / 430F.
- While the oven preheats, punch the risen dough down. Knead it for a while.
- Cut the dough into 8 portions.
- Roll each piece into as long a sausage as possible with thin extremities. Form them into a Brezeln or pretzel shape and place on a parchment line baking tray.
- Brush each roll with the glaze, and sprinkle some seeds on top. Pat the seeds into the dough with your hands.
- Put a shallow container filled with boiling water into the lower rack of the oven. On the middle rack put the baking tray.
- Bake for 25 minutes, or until nice and dark and sounding hollow when lightly tapped.
- Let cool for 5 minutes and serve while still warm.