Pretzels are my obsession. I like all of them, including soft Auntie Anne’s ones offered in most American malls and airports. No wonder pretzels were my point of interest during the trip to Hessen and Reinland-Pfalz states in Germany and Alsace region in France. Those I loved.
The recipe below is my favorite version of homemade pretzels adjusted to locally available ingredients.
Make poolish 12 hours before using. In a small container, combine the ingredients, mix well until they are evenly distributed, cover with airtight lid, and ferment at room temperature (70-72F).
In a large bowl, combine bread flour and Saf yeast with a whisk. In a small bowl, combine all poolish, lukewarm water, salt, and barley syrup. Add it to the flour. Using chopsticks, mix dry and liquid ingredients to make flaky crumbs.
Add softened butter and make a dough. Knead by hand for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let ferment for 1 hour at room temperature (~72F).
The dough should double in volume. Deflate it and make 6 portions 135g each.
Shape them into balls and let them rest covered for 20 minutes at the room temperature.
Shape each portion of the dough into a cylinder 12-13" long, 1" in diameter in the center and thinning toward the ends. Cover and let them rest for 20 minutes. NOTE: To shape pretzels, do not dust your working surface with flour. Instead, dampen the table or your hands a little to generate some friction for successful rolling.
Roll each portion of the dough 28-30" long with thicker belly and thin ends and make a knot. Let shaped pretzels rest UNCOVERED in the fridge for about an hour. They will form a thin outer layer to better absorb dipping lye solution and make a shiny golden brown crust.
for dipping and baking
Preheat oven 425F.
NOTE: See Recipe Notes for this step! Wear gloves for using either type of soda when making a solution or during the dipping. Prepare dipping solution. FOR LYE: In a large stainless steel bowl, measure food grade caustic soda and add measured cold water. Stir using a stainless steel spoon until soda dissolves. FOR BAKING SODA: In a large stainless steel bowl, measure baking soda and add measured 150F water. Stir using a stainless steel spoon until soda dissolves.
Prepare lined with silicone mat baking sheet. Half size baking sheet will fit 6 pretzels. Wearing gloves, dip cold shaped pretzels into a solution an arrange them on the mat. Using a sharp knife, make a dip cut on the belly of every pretzel. Sprinkle pretsels with flaky salt. Bake for 15 minutes. Let them rest on a cooling rack after baking and serve warm.
Food Grade (Caustic Soda, Lye) USE EXTREME CAUTION:
Lye is caustic and a 3% solution is considered corrosive. Always use gloves. Wearing long sleeves, pants and close-toed shoes are recommended. Not recommended for baking with children.
Wipe up spills with paper towels and discard. Rinse with water or vinegar. Rinse all utensils and gloves with large amounts of water and wash arms and hands after working with the solution. If you feel anything burning on the skin, rewash with soap and water, rinse and dry.