Pretzels come in many shapes and sizes, from the giant to the tiny. They can be hard or soft, and sweet or savoury. A pretzel is basically a dough twisted into what is known as the 'pretzel loop' and a double glazing method is used when baking for a dark, shiny effect. They are popular in Europe, Germany in particular, and the USA. I've actually never eaten a pretzel before, and maybe that was a good thing in case I messed up, then I would be none the wiser! But in fact this is a baking success story, and I now absolutely love pretzels! Especially the sweet ones!
I started with 350g strong white bread flour, 150g plain flour, 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp caster sugar in a large bowl.
In a jug I stirred a sachet of dried yeast into 300ml warm water, and left it to dissolve for 5 minutes. Then I added 2 tbsp sunflower oil.
I mixed the yeast into the flour until it formed a dough. I tipped it out onto a floured surface and kneaded it for 5-10 minutes until it became a smooth and soft dough.
I put the dough into an oiled bowl and left it somewhere warm for about 90 minutes. There is nowhere warm in my house this time of year, so I wrapped the bowl in oven gloves and tea towels for extra warmth. After the 90 minutes it had almost doubled in size.
I knocked the dough back on a floured surface, this just means to push all the air out. I cut the dough in half with a sharp knife, then each half into half again until I ended up with 16 pieces.
I rolled the dough out into a long, thin sausage. They should be about 45cm long - I used a measuring tape to help me keep each piece roughly the same length.
To make the 'pretzel loop' I crossed over the two ends, then twisted them around and brought them back on each other, and secured them by pressing gently.
Not the neatest, but above is roughly what it should look like.
They were quite lose structures at this stage, so I lifted them carefully onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then I covered them with cling film and a tea towel and left for 30 minutes to rise again.
I five bowls I prepared my glazes and toppings: sesame seeds and coarse rock salt, 1 tbsp cinnamon and 3 tbsp caster sugar, one beaten egg, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda mixed with 2 tbsp boiling water, and some melted butter.
I brushed all of the pretzels with the bicarbonate of soda mixture.
For the savoury pretzels, I sprinkled over the sesame seeds and coarse salt before baking.
I baked the pretzels on 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6 for 15 minutes. Take them out and very lightly brush with egg, then put them back in for another 5 minutes. Cool for at least 5 minutes on a cooling rack before serving.
For the sweet pretzels, I did the same egg glazing method as above, then once they had finished baking I brushed them with the melted butter, then sprinkled the cinnamon sugar over them generously and left to cool.
My pretzels weren't perfectly formed, but they were perfectly baked. I even did the Paul Hollywood tap on the bottom to make sure! The simple addition of the different sweet and salty flavours makes such a difference, and the baked dough is chewy and delicious. These didn't last long, I devoured two sweet ones pretty fast! Next time I will roll the dough even thinner and might even make some giant sized pretzels.
TIP: Put chocolate spread (Nutella or any supermarket version) on the sweet pretzels, you will not regret it!!