German-Style Pretzel
This German style pretzel recipe will give you delicious large, soft pretzels. They are always best eaten fresh!
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Makes: 4 large pretzels
  • 250 g (8 oz) strong white flour
  • 150 g (5 fl oz) lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1½ tsp dark brown soft sugar
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
For the dipping
  • 1½ litres (3 pints) water
  • ⅓ cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
For the glaze
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water
  • Coarse sea salt
  1. Mix together the water, yeast and sugar. Leave for 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.
  2. Put the flour, salt and butter in a bowl and mix well. Rub any lumps of butter into the flour.
  3. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the frothy yeast/water/sugar mix and gradually incorporate enough flour from the sides with stirring to make a thickish paste in the centre. Flick some the remaining unmixed flour over the paste, cover and leave for at least 30 minutes for the paste to "sponge". (You can leave it for up to 2 hours).
  4. Incorporate the rest of the flour into the sponge to give a slightly tacky dough.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Place the dough in a lightly-greased bowl, cover and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.
  7. Turn the dough out, knock it back and divide into 4 roughly-equal pieces. Place the pieces under a cloth.
  8. Take a piece of dough and press it into a rectangle about 10 cm x 12 cm (4" x 5"). Roll it up tightly along the long side and pinch the seams.
  9. Roll the dough out with your hands to about 30 cm (12") long and put to one side. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  10. Take the first piece of rolled dough and roll it out using your hands to about 60 cm (24") in length. The dough should taper out from the centre to the two ends.
  11. Form the dough into the traditional pretzel shape and place on a lightly-greased baking tray. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
  12. Place the tray in a plastic bag and leave in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour.
  13. Once the dough has risen remove the tray it from the plastic bag and place in a freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up the dough.
  14. Prepare the dipping solution by dissolving the baking soda in the water in a stainless steel pan. Bring the solution gradually to boiling point then turn off the heat.
  15. One at a time, dip the pretzels into the solution. Leave for 10 seconds then turn the pretzel over. Leave for a further 10 seconds then remove from the solution.
  16. Place the dipped pretzel on a lightly-greased baking tray and continue dipping the remaining pretzels.
  17. Brush the pretzels with the egg yolk/water glaze and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Slash the dough with a sharp knife.
  18. Bake at 180°C/360°F fan oven, 200°C/400°F conventional oven for 12-15 minutes.
  19. Place on a wire rack to cool slightly then eat on the day of baking.
Traditionally the unbaked pretzels are dipped in a solution of 3% w/w lye, more commonly known as caustic soda or sodium hydroxide. This solution is corrosive and can cause very nasty burns. If you get it in your eye it can make you blind.

There are recipes on the internet which use lye but do not give you sufficient safety advice. Although my recipe doesn't use lye I'll tell you what you need to do if you do decide to use it.

Safety equipment. You need a pair of chemical-resistant goggles and a pair of alkali-resistant gauntlets which come all the way up to your elbows. A plastic apron is also highly recommended.

Spillages. To cope with spillages make sure you have a large bottle of vinegar at hand. In the event of spillage you can neutralise the lye with the vinegar but take care when doing so. You need about half as much vinegar as you have 3% lye solution.

Splashes. If the solution comes into contact with your skin flush the affected area immediately under cold running water for at least 3 minutes. The affected area will initially feel soapy but not painful. If you start to feel pain call an ambulance. If you splash the solution in your eye open your eye wide with your fingers and flush under a cold tap or shower for at least 5 minutes - do not hesitate to call an ambulance if you get a splash in your eye.

Disposal. Do not pour the solution down your sink if it is connected to a septic tank. Check with you local authorities on the correct method of disposal for your area.

This recipe will take you 80% of the way to unique taste of German pretzels. My strong advice is to leave the lye to the professionals.