These are known as “Brezen” in Bavaria. They have a firm place in Bavarian cuisine, especially as part of “Brotzeit” (literally, “bread time”). People eat them as an accompaniment to Weisswurst (soft pork sausage), Leberkäse (meat loaf), or Obatzda (a cheese spread), among lots of other things. Brezen also make a great snack just on their own, or you can slice them horizontally (like a bread roll) and spread with a few flakes of fresh butter. If you like charcuterie boards with bread on the side, replace the bread with Brezen next time: it’ll elevate the experience to another level. I’ve been developing and tweaking the recipe below over quite a few iterations. The result is something that would totally pass for the genuine article if sold in a Munich bakery. To make the real thing, you will have to use lye. It requires some moderate precautions, but really is quite harmless unless you do something stupid. (I’ve added instructions for how to deal with it in a separate post.) No matter how many recipes you find on the net that claim that you don’t need lye and can use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) instead, don’t believe them. Baking soda produces only a pale shadow of the real thing. (Trust me, I tried it many times.) Below are images of Brezen I made with baking soda and with lye (and otherwise identical recipe). You can see the big difference not just in color and how shiny (or dull) they are, but also in surface texture. With baking soda, you simply cannot achieve the very crisp layer on the surface, and the taste of that layer is not the same either. So, in short, if you want to make the real thing, you need to use lye. Brezen made with baking soda: And Brezen made with lye: Ingredients (for twelve Brezen): For the starter dough: 70 g all-purpose flour 0.5 g dry active yeast 0.7 g salt 40 g water For the main dough: 670 g all-purpose flour 14 g salt 6.5 g dry active yeast 20 g soft (room temperature) butter 260 g water 70 g milk (3.5% fat, cold from the fridge) 5 ml rye malt sirup Starter dough from the day before For finishing: 3.5 % lye solution Coarse salt Water from a spray bottle For the salt, in Bavaria, bakers use something known as "Grobes Mühlensalz" (coarse-milled salt), also known as "Hagelsalz" (hail salt). It's a really coarse-grained salt. Here is a picture that shows it side-by-side with Morton kosher salt: Here is a close-up of the grains: It's easy to see that the traditional Brezen salt has more than double the grain size of Morton kosher. If you are looking for a substitute, I'm guessing that Diamond kosher would work well. (I have never cooked with Diamond kosher but, from online images, it looks like it would be a close analog.) Or use sea salt flakes as a substitute. The idea is to have coarse salt. When eating Brezen, you want individual "pings" of saltiness instead of a mostly uniform salty piece of bread, so resist any temptation to use fine salt. (If you are desperate, taking some rock salt and briefly blitzing it in a spice grinder, or crushing it with a rolling pin might work, too.) Method: Mix the ingredients for the starter dough until the dough comes together. No real kneading is needed or wanted here; we do not want any gluten development at this point. Once the dough is together, shape it into a ball and place it into a plastic bag or wrap it with plastic wrap. Let it sit on the bench for an hour or two, then put it into the fridge for at least twelve hours. (24 hours is best; up to 48 hours is fine.) On baking day, break the starter dough into small pieces and rub it into the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and knead with a stand mixer for 5 minutes on slow speed. The dough should have come mostly together by that time. You will get a very firm and dry dough. Shape it into a ball, cover, and let it rest for 15 minutes. After resting, knead the dough once again for 8 minutes, on medium speed. It should end up very silky, smooth, and dense. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces. (You should end up with something very close to 100 g per piece.) Shape each piece into a smooth ball, taking care not to create any large air bubbles. Seal the seam and shape into a longish oval shape. Set the pieces on baking trays on top of baking paper, cover, and let them rest for 15 minutes. Once rested, roll each piece of dough into a long (around 65 cm) sausage. Start rolling with both palms from the middle and work your way outward. Each length of dough should be thicker in the middle and taper to quite thin (around 5 mm in diameter) near the tips. Do not use extra flour at this (or any other) stage. If you find that the dough slips on your work surface rather than rolling back and forth, mist the surface with a little water from a spray bottle. This creates a bit more friction between the dough and surface, so you can roll it properly. Once rolled, form the length of dough into a pretzel shape and place upside down onto baking paper on a baking sheet. Cover all the Brezen and let prove for 15-30 minutes. Then flip the Brezen right-side up and prove for 15-30 minutes more. Now put the Brezen, uncovered, into the fridge for 30-60 minutes. The idea is to stiffen them up and to form a dry skin on the surface. Once cold and dry, it’s time to dunk them into the lye. Wear rubber globes and use the 3.5% lye solution at room temperature. (Do not heat it up.) Dunk each Brezen into the lye solution for 3-4 seconds (5 seconds maximum), let excess lye drip off, and put back onto the baking sheet (still lined with baking paper). While the Brezen is still wet on the surface, sprinkle with the coarse salt. Work quickly at this stage, we don’t want the lye to soak into the dough for the first Brezen too much while we are dealing with the remainder. (It's a good idea to requisition your significant other to sprinkle the salt for you, seeing that you have hands with lye on them.) Put the Brezen into a pre-heated 220 ºC oven (convection setting). If you don’t have a convection oven, use 230 ºC, set the sheet in the middle of the oven, and turn it once halfway during the baking period. Bake for 15 minutes. You are looking for a deep brown color. Don’t be shy about having the Brezen quite dark. The instant you pull a sheet out of the oven, spray the Brezen with a fine mist of water from a spray bottle. This makes a huge difference to the final surface texture, making it both glossy and crispy. Peel the Brezen off the baking paper while still hot and put on a wire rack to cool down. Try one while it is still warm (but not hot). It likely will be one of the best breads you have ever tasted! Here is a Brezen and butter "sandwich". Put this on your bucket list! The best drink to go with this is (of course) Bavarian beer. See part 2 for how to make and store lye.