Breads Bavarian "Brezen" (Pretzels)

Discussion in 'The Cookbook aka Recipe Forum' started by Michi, Mar 8, 2020.

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  1. Mar 8, 2020 #1

    Michi

    Michi

    Michi

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    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:
    IMG_2824.jpeg
    And Brezen made with lye:
    IMG_2870.jpeg

    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:
    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:
    IMG_3506.JPG
    Here is a close-up of the grains:
    IMG_3507 2.JPG
    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.
    IMG_3508 2.jpg
    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.
    IMG_3509.jpg
    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.
    IMG_3510 2.JPG
    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).
    IMG_3519.JPG

    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. :)
    IMG_3529 2.jpg
    See part 2 for how to make and store lye.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020
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  2. Mar 8, 2020 #2

    Michi

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  3. Mar 9, 2020 #3

    Dave Martell

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    From my many trips to Munich I can attest to your brezen lye examples as looking pretty authentic. Stomach growls....I miss those things greatly.
     
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  4. Mar 9, 2020 #4

    Luftmensch

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    These pretzels are making me hungry!

    Looks fantastic. I had no idea lye was food safe!
     
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  5. Mar 9, 2020 #5

    David7777777777

    David7777777777

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    wow! excellent job!
    i was a baker for a while and had to make bagels among a bunch of other things. The baker who trained me always talked about showing me pretzels at some point because of a loose similarity but she never got around to it before moving on.
    I'm definitely going to give this a shot soon.

    thanks for the hard work!
     
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  6. Mar 22, 2020 #6

    nutmeg

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    I live in Munich and.. your Brezn' look great!
     
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  7. Mar 23, 2020 #7

    keithboyle13

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    I made these over the weekend, and they a great. I'm just a home cook, and these were a hit.
     
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  8. Mar 23, 2020 #8

    Michi

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    Photo? :)
     
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  9. Mar 26, 2020 #9

    toddnmd

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    Michu, this looks great! Thanks for sharing.
    You have convinced me that lye is the PROPER way to make these, BUT it is just beyond my capacity right now. I’d like to do some pretzel letters while my kid is out of school. What is the best way to make these with baking soda?
    And is there a readily available substitute for rye malt syrup?
     
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  10. Mar 26, 2020 #10

    Michi

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    You can use baking soda, but you won't get the real thing.

    If you use baking soda, make a solution of ¼ cup of baking soda to one litre of water. The solution needs to be hot. Not boiling, just on a decent simmer; let's say 80 ºC or so. Dunk the dough into the hot solution for 15-20 seconds (more or less—it's not that critical).

    You can substitute pretty much any malt syrup. Something dark is nice; molasses will work, or rice malt syrup, or even golden syrup. I've Never tried with maple syrup, but I don't see any reason why that wouldn't do the job as well. (There is too little of the syrup in there to notice its flavour component, anyway.)

    Rye malt syrup was used traditionally because it was readily available way back when (with all the beer brewing going on in Bavaria), not because it's the only thing that works. The idea is to add some sugar and some colour, that's all.
     
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  11. Mar 26, 2020 #11

    SeattleBen

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    How interchangeable is diastatic or non diastatic malt powder with the rye syrup. (I swear I can read!, just not in a timely checking the last post above way)

    Also, it's been a long time since I was following recipes with fractional parts of grams!

    Edited to poke some fun at myself.
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2020
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  12. Mar 27, 2020 #12

    Michi

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    Check out Modernist Cuisine—it’s all the rage ;)

    The real reason is that dry yeast is sold in 7 g packets here :)
     
  13. Mar 27, 2020 #13

    SeattleBen

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    All the cool kids are cooking with white powder.
     
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  14. Mar 27, 2020 #14

    da_mich*

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  15. Mar 27, 2020 #15

    Michi

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    Those are the dry crunchy ones, yes?

    I’ve never made those. I assume that they bake them normally and then dehydrate them? Or maybe bake them twice, as with Zwieback?
     
  16. Mar 27, 2020 #16

    da_mich*

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    Yes they are dry and crunchy but i don´t know how they are made
     
  17. Mar 28, 2020 #17
    upload_2020-3-28_15-16-35.jpeg
    I have the correct beer.
     
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  18. Mar 29, 2020 #18

    SeattleBen

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    Delicious @Michi. I'm assuming the sticking to the paper is a failing to dry adequately.
     
  19. Mar 29, 2020 #19

    Michi

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    The Brezen go onto the paper while still wet, which makes them stick a little. But it’s no problem peeling them off once the come out of the oven.
     
  20. Mar 29, 2020 #20

    Michi

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    Just pulled another batch out of the oven:
     

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    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
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  21. Mar 29, 2020 #21

    SeattleBen

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    Definitely need the right salt, I tried to cheat and just used Diamond Kosher.
     
  22. Mar 29, 2020 #22

    ian

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    Yea, Diamond Crystal is actually finer than Morton’s, fyi. It’s my usual cooking salt.
     
  23. Mar 29, 2020 #23

    ian

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    Have you tried using sodium carbonate? Ie, baked baking soda? That’s partly what I use to make alkaline noodles, in addition to potassium carbonate.
     
  24. Mar 29, 2020 #24

    Michi

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    No, I haven't tried with that.

    Sodium carbonate will give you a somewhat stronger alkaline solution than Sodium bicarbonate, but still much weaker than sodium hydroxide, so I would expect lacklustre results.

    I did some searches on German baking forums, which anecdotally confirm this. There really is no good substitute for lye. If there were, bakers would have switched to it long ago, if only because sodium carbonate is a lot easier and safer to handle than sodium hydroxide.
     
  25. Apr 2, 2020 #25

    SeattleBen

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  26. Apr 2, 2020 #26

    Michi

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    They look really nice! How was the taste?

    Yes, getting larger salt crystals would make them look better, and also improve the taste. The individual "pings" of saltiness from the coarse crystals are part of the experience.

    Have you tried crushing rock salt between two boards or some such? Or maybe smashing rock salt in a spice grinder? (I've never tried this, so I don't know whether it actually works. But it might be worth a try if you can get coarse salt.)

    Or (if freight isn't utterly prohibitive), you could order from Amazon or eBay in Germany:

    https://www.amazon.de/FOOD-Duesseld...&qid=1585790469&sprefix=Brezen,aps,461&sr=8-5

    https://www.ebay.de/itm/500-g-Breze...771808?hash=item1ce3227a20:g:6IgAAOSwlGpeNzrZ
     
  27. Apr 2, 2020 #27

    SeattleBen

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    @Michi they were delicious! The salt is out there, it's just a bit hard to collect and not worth extra trips right now. Taste was great. I'm looking forward to doing it again, the only thing I'd do differently is not to use paper for the final bake. I'd sub a greased sheet. I know that my paper has trouble at those temps anyway.
     
  28. Apr 2, 2020 #28

    Michi

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    Silicon mats are supposed to work, too. I haven’t tried that yet, but will do that next time.
     

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