23 Jun 2007

Preztel Logic

Posted by khk

As everybody who knows me can attest to, I’m a big Alton Brown fan. Last week’s “Good Eats” (this page has a video that starts when the page is loaded – bad!) episode was about my favorite food: Pretzels (or Brezen, how they are called in Bavaria). Given that I’m a pretty good pretzel baker myself, I think I have to critique the show and his process a bit…

The process in general was pretty close to how I do it. There even were erie similarities (e.g. how he cut his batch into eight pieces by weighing every piece, or that he’s using the same Soehnle scale that I use). But, there of course were things I do different, and things that were clearly wrong!

I use milk instead of water. I did a few test runs with recipes containing 100% water, 50/50 water and milk, and 100% milk. My taste tests did show that the pretzels made with just milk were the most authentic (and when I say authentic, I mean Bavarian). But even with just water, the pretzels are still very good.

Where he really went wrong was with how he formed the pretzels: First of all, when you roll out the dough, it is important that the ends are thinner than the middle part, and there just has to be a twist between the two ends cross each other. This is actually shown correctly at the beginning of the show at the end of the story about the Italian monk. Here is a picture of authentic German pretzels:


His second faux pas was that he did not cut into the dough just before baking them (after the boiling step). This will help the pretzels to rise. When the dough gets boiled, the outer layer of the pretzel becomes tough, which means that the yeast has a much harder time to work against the surface tension of the dough. Once the dough is cut with a sharp knife, we created an outlet and the middle of the pretzel will rise nicely.

And then of course, there was the story with the mustard. Don’t get me wrong, mustard is my most favorite condiment. Some people actually have accused me of using e.g. a wiener sausage as edible spoon for mustard… But, I would never – NEVER – put mustard on a preztel. Mustard goes on the sausage that you eat with your pretzel – and of course, that would preferably be a “Weisswurst“, the famous Bavarian white sausage (I am getting mine from Hartmann’s):


Here is a batch of my pretzels:


I still have to try his mustard recipe.

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4 Responses to “Preztel Logic”

  1. Now I’m hungry! I’ll have to come over and raid you kitchen!



  2. You have to wait a bit – I’m actually making dough right now… It has to rise for three hours (or overnight).



  3. […] a previous post I claimed to know a thing or two about pretzel baking… I guess it’s time to deliver the […]

  4. I like your pretzels. However they don’t need to be boiled. Use a sodium hydroxide solution. 4% on water weight, dip for about 10 seconds, drain, cut and sprinkle with salt. I am master German baker from Stuggart and I have made 1000’s of these in Germany! Also the cut is a little big and should be on top of the pretzel not along the side. Overall you made some pretty nice pretzels!



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