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Soft Pretzel

Oktoberfest Wood Fired Pretzels

This is an old world German soft pretzel recipe tailored for baking in a wood fired oven. Crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside, they are perfect for serving at a fall Oktoberfest party, or in a restaurant, or food truck!
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 6 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 36 mins
Course Appetizer, Bread, Dough
Cuisine Italian, German
Servings 15 Servings

Ingredients
  

Biga (Make the day before)

  • 144 grams White or All Purpose Flour
  • 94 grams water
  • 2.8 grams Kosher Salt
  • 1 pinch instant yeast (IDY)

Pretzel Dough

  • 578 grams White Flour
  • 340 grams water * Use bottled water if your tap water has a taste to it
  • 12 grams sea salt
  • 2.5 tsp instant yeast (IDY)
  • 36 grams unsalted butter Softened
  • 7 grams baking malt * You can order this from King Arthur or any baking store
  • 240 grams Biga * Pre-fermented overnight

Lye Dip

  • 1250 grams water (apx. 5 1/4 cups)
  • 50 grams Food-Grade Lye

Instructions
 

Biga

  • Combine the ingredients in a mixer for less than one minute, or until you get something that looks like pancake batter. Cover the bowl with a towel, and let it sit overnight.

Pretzel Dough

  • Mix the dough ingredients together (except the biga) for 3 minutes.
  • Add the biga in chunks and mix for 5 minutes.
  • Let the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. Then remove it from the bowl and fold it. Return it to the bowl, cover, and let it rise another hour.
  • Roll out approx. 85 grams of dough into a rope about 18 - 20 inches long. Shape the pretzels into the traditional crossed-end shape, or in rods. (I've done both. The rods are much easier, but the people like the original-shaped pretzels best.)
  • Refrigerate the pretzels for about 30 minutes. It makes them much easier to handle when putting them in the lye.

Lye Bath & Baking

  • Remember, even food-grade lye is caustic! We recommend wearing safety glasses and rubber gloves to protect your eyes and skin. Combine the lye and water in a glass bowl. Do not use metal! Stir gently until all of the lye is dissolved.
  • Do not drop or throw the pretzels in the lye bath. Using a large plastic skimmer or slotted spoon, GENTLY lower the pretzels one at a time into the solution for 5 seconds and then remove from the solution and place on parchment paper. You can dry them off by patting with a paper towel (opt.) Sprinkle with coarse sea salt or other toppings. I've also done Jalapenos and combinations of other toppings.
  • Important: Before baking, slice the pretzels at the bottom. (This allows the gas to escape.) Bake in the oven at 450°F - 500°F for around 6-8 minutes or until brown. They will stay crispy outside and soft and chewy inside.

Notes

When you are distributing the pretzels, you can ask if your guest would like it heated. Most of the time, they do! Simply pop it back in your brick oven for around 10 - 15 seconds and serve with a small cup of sweet, hot mustard or cheese sauce for dipping. They are very popular in restaurants, food trucks, and parties!
Chemistry note: The alkaline lye bath changes the color and flavor of the pretzels, affecting the way the Maillard reaction* plays out when the pretzel bakes. (*A Maillard reaction is the chemical interaction between small sugars, proteins, and amino acids that happens when dough bakes.) Lye baths have been used for centuries in traditional pretzel baking to give them their unique taste.
It is important to avoid touching the dough with your bare hands after dipping it into the lye mixture. Also, keep it off of aluminum surfaces because of the caustic nature of the chemical. Pretzels are safe to eat after cooking.
Lastly, a contribution from one of our Community members who has a bakery: "If you opt to use a baking soda bath instead of a lye bath, first bake your baking soda at 250°F for an hour before mixing it with the water. This gets the baking soda to brown better- one carbon molecule is baked off, and the baking soda turns grey- it works!"
Keyword wood fired baking, soft pretzel, German pretzel, Oktoberfest