German style pretzels

German style pretzels

After the past month of traveling, it seems as though my brain has turned to mush. And I’m at a loss for words. We spent almost three weeks in Croatia, where I lived in my bikini and dined heavily on grilled vegetables marinated in homemade olive oil. And figs. Lots and lots of fresh figs. From Croatia we flung ourselves into war torn Bosnia and the entire time my heart ached to be near the sea. Not to mention, my mind was confused as to how (why!?!!?) my body went from being half naked for nearly three weeks to being bundled up in heavy knit socks, two long sleeved shirts, and a rain jacket. Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any more uneasy or intense than they were in Mostar or Sarajevo, we flew to Istanbul. And when the bus carried us into town and dropped us off at Taksim Square, we were instantly blasted with cars and their horns and people and prayers and neon signs and not an ounce of anything familiar in sight. Sensory overload was at an all time maximum, and it carried on that way for the duration of our time in the city. For six days straight we adapted and tried not to buckle from the complete and utter chaos of Istanbul. For six days straight I was certain that – despite what I felt in Krakow or Bratislava or Sarajevo – I was completely out of my element for the very first time in my life.

As a result, I’m still trying to put my experience there into words. Trying to understand how a place can make you feel so scared and exposed and at peace, all at the same time. People ask me how it was and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is It was fucking crazy. Tumultuous, in every sense of the word. Over the top. In your face like the Green Peace solicitors when all you want to do is walk across the street to get a freaking burrito. It was exhausting on every level; physically, emotionally, molecularly, subconsciously. But not necessarily in a bad way. Because my experience there stretched me and moved me and showed me how to be more tolerant; more patient. And for that I am thankful. For that I feel like I just might be forever-indebted to the city because it taught me something I’ve struggled to learn for years.

KneadingKneadingShapingPretzel makin'German pretzels3Crushed sea salt

But this isn’t about Istanbul – although I wish it was because there are so many things I want to write about that place; so many eye opening experiences I want share with you. But at another time, perhaps? Because we’re in Munich now and, with a warm cup of coffee by my side, I’m watching Thom as he wrestles with the covers and tries to deal with the fact that the increasing amount of daylight is an indication that he really needs to get out of bed. In a few short hours we’ll be on our way to Oktoberfest (my first, his third) (!!!) sans the traditional dirndl/lederhosen attire because between the stack of Turkish towels and random trinkets we’ve collected, we have no room in our packs for authentic Oktoberfest outfits. But I think the important thing – the thing the Germans care about most – is that we have room in our bellies for beer and brezeln. And I want all the brezeln.

To celebrate Oktoberfest, I’ve got Thom – The Motherfucking Master of Mixing and Kneading and Shaping and Rolling (official title, yo) – sharing his recipe for German style pretzels. Over the past four or five years he’s perfected his method and I figured it’s about time I give you guys the recipe. And what better time than while we’re in Munich, celebrating with all the best foods in Bavaria? Exactly.

Prost!

SaltingGerman style pretzelsGerman style pretzelsSweet Bavarian mustardGerman style pretzelsBeer & pretzelsHefeweizen pour

Notes: For true German (or Bavarian) pretzels, you should use lye. But since we didn’t (and have never) feel like dealing with that business, we went the baking soda route. They’re golden yellow opposed to mahogany brown, but they taste the same going down with a swoop of stone ground mustard and a heavy German beer. Make sure you follow the recipe exactly as pretzels and can downhill pretty fast. Like, if you don’t activate the yeast properly. Or if you overwork the dough. Also, I’ll have you know I pushed and pushed and puuuushed to use half-part whole grain flour here but Thom said the Germans would be appalled. If you feel like trying to up the nutritional content of these babies, I have a feeling you could substitute 2 cups of whole spelt or wheat flour for the unbleached flour. And throw in an extra 1/4 teaspoon of yeast for good measure.

GERMAN STYLE PRETZELS

Dough
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups water
, 105-110˚F
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tbsp brown sugar
4-4 1/2 cups unbleached flour

Soda bath
8 cups filtered water
1/3 cup baking soda

Lightly oil a large mixing bowl; set aside. Place 1/3 a cup of the water in a small bowl and stir in the yeast; add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy (10-15 minutes). When the yeast has proofed, pour it into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining water, salt, sugar, and 4 cups of the flour; mix with a wooden spoon. Once the ingredients are combined, mix in the remaining flour (2 tablespoons at a time) until the dough is firm and just barely sticky. Lightly flour your work surface and turn the dough out onto it; knead for 4-5 minutes, punching and stretching and all that other fun stuff. Just make sure you don’t overwork the dough. Place the dough into the prepared mixing bowl and cover with a towel. Store in a warm part of your house for 30-45 minutes. Or an hour, if you’ve got the extra minutes.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, turn out the dough, divide it into eight even segments, and roll them into balls. Using your hands, roll each ball into a 20-24 inch long rope. It should be about the size of a marker in the middle, and the last six inches of each end should taper off. Twist into pretzels and place on the prepared baking sheets. Refrigerate, uncovered, for one hour – this is what gives them their crackle-y skin. If you’re not into the crackle, just let them rise on the baking sheets for 30 minutes.

Once the pretzels have chilled/risen, preheat oven to 450˚F. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling and you’re ready to dip the pretzels, add the baking soda. Using a large slotted spatula, dip each pretzel into the bath, submerging for 15-20 seconds. Transfer back to the baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse sea salt (if desired). Bake at 450˚F for about 10-14 minutes, until lightly golden. The pretzels are best served right away, but you can store them in an air-tight container for a day or two and reheat them in the oven as needed. You could also bake them for 4-6 minutes, let them cool and then store them in the freezer until ready to bake completely.

Yield: 8 pretzels

  • Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar September 25, 2013 at 4:31 AM

    Homemade pretzels are the best! I love the look of these!

  • Harriet September 25, 2013 at 4:33 AM

    Your travels sound amazing and awe-inspiring, lady! I’m supremely jealous and happy at the same time to read about your experiences and browse your wonderful photos. These pretzels look awesome! Every time a friend or family member is headed for Germany, I always tell them to eat one for me, because I love them so, and they just aren’t the same here in Australia. But I love the idea of making my own! I hope Oktoberfest is a blast! Mach Spaß!

  • Cassandra September 25, 2013 at 5:42 AM

    Yummm. Can’t wait to try those pretzels!

    You nailed describing Istanbul. I lived there for 4 months last year & it never stopped being fucking crazy! But I love it so much & can’t wait to see it again!

  • Ashley September 25, 2013 at 8:22 AM

    Gorgeous!!! Also cannot wait to hear the details about your trip. Let’s block out an entire week for that, k? ;)

  • dixya| food, pleasure, and health September 25, 2013 at 8:39 AM

    these look gorgeous. I would love to hear your experiences further :)

  • Angela September 25, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    Totally missing out on Octoberfest this year, would love to go next year.
    Tonight, I’m going to make these pretzels, have a beer and talk German so I can pretend I am at Octoberfest.

  • Brit September 25, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    I didn’t know you were traveling to all of those places too! Jealous! Also, I might try those pretzels this weekend… I feel like I can smell them through the screen.

  • Mallory @ Because I Like Chocolate September 25, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    I adore making homemade pretzels. It always seems to be a go-to thing for me, especially when you want to impress people (even though they are so easy to make). Your trip sounds wonderful, I love travelling!

  • Valerie September 25, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    It was so nice meeting you through Meg in Paris and I truly love your writing style and reading your posts. I’m glad your vacation is adventurous and exhilarating and hope that it continues to be so. Best of luck!

  • Kasey September 25, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    First, how I wish I was lying half-naked on a beach in Croatia. Second, your travels and stories are giving me serious wanderlust. I dream of someday making it to Istanbul (despite the craziness!). Third, I was just telling my friend how I need to try my hand at making pretzels at home. This is on the list! Gorgeous photos, as always.

  • Lana September 25, 2013 at 8:06 PM

    I love hearing people speak of Bosnia. I was born there and my family fled the country during the war (I was a little babe). Some of my friends have recently visited and it’s actually otherworldly to hear them talk about it and describe a place that to me was never a travel destination, but a place to go to visit the family left behind. It’s a nice feeling to know that people care to check it out, although I have a hard time understanding it sometimes.

    But how beautiful is Croatia? I think it might be my favourite coast on earth.

    And um, I want to make these pretzels asap.

  • Johanna September 26, 2013 at 3:31 AM

    Okay, I have to say that I stopped reading when I heard that you were in Croatia. Since reading a book by Warren Zimmerman about the fall of Yugoslavia, I have always wanted to go there. As far as soft, German pretzels, I’m a sucker, too. I lived outside of Stuttgart for 6 months, and I felt like we had the best pretzels in our area. I had one up around Frankfurt, and it actually looked more like yours (a little less fluffy). I do, however, plan to make this recipe. I made my first pretzel rolls from the Burger issue of Vegnews, and it’s time to just make A pretzel. Tschuess!

  • Shepherds Pie Blog September 26, 2013 at 6:57 AM

    Just in time for Oktoberfest! Thanks for sharing! I have tried to make pretzels in the past but they have always turned out strange and soggy. Any tips for preventing this?

  • Amber - Loves Food, Loves to Eat September 26, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    I love your writing style, and your trip sounds amazing, and these pretzels look fabulous!

  • The Vegan Cookie Fairy September 26, 2013 at 12:55 PM

    I love reading about your travel adventures. Sensory overload in a foreign country is a bitch, but you come out of the experience a changed person (for the better, most of the time.)

    Do you take all the photographs for your recipes while you’re abroad or did you have them prepared before you left? I find it really impressive that you manage to keep up such a great blog while you’re travelling!

    • Ashlae September 26, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      I lined up eight recipes before we left. ;)

  • Melissa @ Treats With a Twist September 26, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    I can’t believe how long you’ve been traveling now. Are you ever coming home?
    I totally want those Turkish towels! I’d be stuffing my luggage with them too!
    I made pretzels once. And Thom’s look absolutely amazing. There’s nothing better than a fresh, salted pretzel.

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  • Kathryn September 27, 2013 at 1:59 PM

    Ah, have a crazy good time at Oktoberfest!

    Really interested to hear your thoughts on Istanbul too, I’ve got a couple of colleagues who have just moved that and it sounds like it’s completely messed with their minds (in a good way and a bad way).

  • Jessica Noelle Glitterpony September 30, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    I only *just!* found your blog and can I tell you something? I literally want to bury my head in your blog and eat everything you’ve made. It is a very intense desire. I am going to make these pretzels to start. Then come back and make everything else because oh my gosh–looks SO GOOD. :)
    ….uhm, did I tell you that you have an awesome blog? ;) Yep. You do. :)

  • Jessica Noelle Glitterpony September 30, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    PS. ‘grats on the engagement! That ring is killer and the story that goes with it is even sweeter. :)

  • Heidi - Apples Under My Bed September 30, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    Oh, I hear ya, lady, about Istanbul. For sure. What great lessons come out of being thrust into a completely new and overwhelming environment. When I think about Croatia I too think about water and figs and seafood and doing nothing but being there with the water and the food. Great looking recipe, thanks. I’m yet to visit Germany. Berlin is on my mind. Oh, & I love the look of this sweet Bavarian mustard!
    Heidi xo

  • Trisha @ Vignette October 2, 2013 at 5:16 PM

    Beer, mustard, salty pretzels. I’m in!

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  • Sini │my blue&white kitchen October 25, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    I HAVE to make these! Being a half-Bavarian living in Finland, I’m missing Bretzeln terribly for the most part of the year. I’ve never made them at home because you can’t buy lye here. I’ve always been certain that they wouldn’t taste the same if using soda instead. But hey, maybe I should just try! Thank you so much.

  • Allie October 28, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    can’t wait to try these out. i’ve always attempted pretzels but they just worked out; maybe i’ve been overworking the dough.

  • Edlyn October 30, 2013 at 6:41 AM

    If you thought Istanbul was a sensory overload, India will kill you. It’s insanity, but so worth a trip. Pretzels are on my must-try list. Pröst!

  • kira November 18, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    I have got to try this! YUMMM

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  • Heather August 17, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    I realize I’m about a year late finding this post, but I’m glad I did. I make soap and have lye on hand. Do the measurements or the process change at all when using lye instead of BS? I can’t wait to make these and surprise my München-born hubby.

    thanks!

    • Ashlae August 17, 2014 at 10:52 AM

      Hi Heather –

      I’ve never worked with lye, so I’m not sure the exact amount you should use when soaking the pretzels. Te pretzel making process, however, will remain the same. Prost!

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