Let me tell you what happens when you casually suggest to your social butterfly of a German husband that you should host an annual Oktoberfest party. Said German husband JUMPS on the idea and begins shopping for lederhosen and beer. Year by year that party grows, almost exponentially. Before you know it, you are up to your ears in bratwurst, red cabbage, potato salad…and most importantly, soft pretzels.
This year, six batches yielding a total of 84 pretzels were twisted the day of our Oktoberfest party to please our hungry friends. Each year it becomes more important to find ways to make those batches of pretzels as quickly as possible! The German husband did not seem to mind the test pretzels he was forced to eat in the weeks leading up to Oktoberfest. Major efficiency strides were made this year by adapting to a recipe without a significant rise time or a simmering baking soda bath.
Best of all, I had two amazing helpers to make the pretzel twisting go faster. Don’t worry, they were paid well with unlimited pretzels and beer. And bratwurst. And potato salad. And endless red cabbage.
At the end of the night, we had 4 pretzels left. Not too shabby.
Makes 12 – 14 pretzels.
1 ½ cups warm water
One package active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons barley malt syrup
3 tablespoons softened butter
21 ounces, or approximately 4 ¼ cups flour
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 cup hot water
Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
Mix warm water, package of yeast, and barley malt syrup together in the bowl of a stand mixer, or other large bowl. Let the mixture sit for 8 to ten minutes until the yeast looks foamy. Add the flour and butter and mix until the dough comes together.
Knead the dough by hand for 8 minutes or for 6 minutes in a stand mixer with a dough hook.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide the dough into 12 to 14 equally sized pieces.
It took me a little while to learn the act of twisting a pretzel. Here's how I do it in pictures.
Roll out your pretzel dough into a rope. The ends should be a little thinner than the rest of the rope. Shape the rope into a U.
Twist the ends around each other once.
Take the ends and flip them down onto the base of the U.
This process takes long enough (even with fantastic helpers) that the pretzels get a bit of an informal rise.
Add the baking soda to hot water in a measuring cup or similar vessel. Mix until the baking soda dissolves. Brush the baking soda water solution onto the pretzels with a basting brush, then immediately shake coarse salt onto the pretzels.
Bake the pretzels on parchment for 12 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
Until next year, Oktoberfest. Prost!