Pretzel’s, the AGU way

I’ve been needing to post this for reference for anyone who wants to see how I’ve documented my process.

Tom’s Laugenbrezeln (Lye Pretzels)

  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup cool water
  • 1 Tablespoon malt extract (or brown sugar)
    • totally optional, but I have the DME so I use it, and I’m convinced the Munich pretzel makers do too.
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt
  • Coarse salt (pretzel salt)
  • 4 ½ cups flour
  • A little vegetable oil (to keep things from sticking)
  • 2 Tablespoons of lye (to be dissolved in 1 qt of cool water)
    • Lye is caustic!
    • Use rubber gloves, safety goggles, long sleeves, long pants and closed shoes!
    • Do not use metal bowl or utensils! Only use glass or plastic!

Dissolve malt extract in warm water. Add yeast. Mix salt and 2 cups of flour. After yeast is proofed, mix 2 cups of flour with cool water and add yeast. Add more flour until dough is sticky but not sticking. Form into ball and lightly oil. Let rise 1 hour or until double (for Oktoberfest, we let this rise over night).

Heat oven to 450F (or hotter? I’m still working this out).

Divide dough into 8 pieces, roll into short log and let rest, roll out thinner about 12-15” long, finally roll to 24” rope with thickest part of rope in the middle and thinner on the ends. Form into pretzel shape. Place on pan with parchment paper that has been lightly oiled and let rise 15 minutes.

Using ONLY a glass bowl and plastic measuring and stirring utensils, put 1 quart of water in the bowl first and then add the lye. Stir slowly and do not splash. Wear protective goggles and plastic gloves. Do NOT heat the lye solution!

Using a plastic slotted spatula, place pretzels one at a time in lye bath for 30 seconds. Push down with plastic utensil to ensure good coverage. Remove the pretzel from the bath (let drain a few seconds on the spatulas so you are not dripping) and place back onto pan with parchment paper. Slit the fat part of the pretzel with knife, sprinkle with coarse salt, and let rise another 15 minutes.

Bake until dark golden brown, approx 15-20 minutes.

Lye-

You will ask yourself, “Do I really need lye?” Do your homework and understand what you’re working with. You can’t make these pretzels without lye. Try other options you read on the internet, and perhaps you’ll find a shortcut that works for you. But lye makes a difference for me. Please be careful. Also note, that the lye water will stain much of what it splashes on. I’ve still got spots on our oak table and the floor, and you may wish to consider dedicating pans for pretzels because you will stain your good cookie sheets. To dispose of lye, just dump it down the drain. Don’t let this freak you out, but it is an ingredient of drain cleaner, so it’s good for cleaning the pipes. And, yes, the baking process renders the harmful caustic bath inert and makes for the browning and crunch and flavor of pretzel.

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