A Twist on a Classic German Snack

Cooking with Beer by | Oct 2007 | Issue #10

What is on almost every bar top, available in all snack aisles and has over $560 million in sales annually? Pretzels! The ubiquitous salty bar snack, with their characteristic knotted, twisted shapes, are thought to symbolize arms folded in prayer. According to one legend, an Italian monk would give pretzels to children who learned their prayers. Indeed, in Europe they are still to this day part of the celebration of Lent.

Pretzels can be warm, soft, hard or chewy, all depending on how they are prepared. The traditional German soft pretzels are boiled first and then baked, similar to a bagel, and are best served fresh. The American hard pretzels are cooked longer at lower heat, which gives them a longer shelf life.

Over 300 million pounds of pretzels are made each year. Impress friends and guests with these four flavors that aren’t your everyday pretzel variety.

Schwartzbier Pretzel
With coffee bean, hazelnuts and cacao nibs

Ingredients:
8 oz. Schwartzbier, or German Black Beer
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. instant yeast, rapid rise
3 cups bread flour
1/2 cup rye flour*
2 tsp. sea salt

Topping:
1 tbsp. coarse salt
1 tbsp. coffee grinds, fine
2 tbsp. cacao nibs*, from Scharffen Berger
3 tbsp. hazelnuts, chopped

IPA & Mustard Pretzel

Ingredients:
8 oz. IPA or Double IPA
1/4 cup dry malt extract (DME)*, or sugar
2 tbsp. mustard (see recipes below)
1 tsp. instant yeast, rapid rise
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsp. sea salt

Topping:
1 tbsp. coarse salt

Oatmeal Stout Pumpernickel Soft Pretzel
With grey salt and toasted oats

Ingredients:
8 oz. Oatmeal Stout, or Chocolate Stout
1/4 cup molasses, or Dark Candi syrup*
1 tsp. instant yeast, rapid rise
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 cup rye flour*
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. caraway seeds, ground

Topping:
1 tbsp. grey salt
3 tbsp. rolled oats

Saison Spelt Pretzel
With coriander and black flaked salt

Ingredients:
8 oz. Saison, or Honey Saison
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. instant yeast, rapid rise
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp. sea salt

Topping:
2 tbsp. black flaked salt*, Cyprus
2 tbsp. coriander, cracked

* Available at specialty or gourmet health food stores, or homebrew shops.

Directions:

Making the dough
In a small bowl, add beer and any yeast slurry (found at the bottom of the bottle), sugar (brown sugar, DME, molasses or honey), mustard (IPA recipe only) and yeast. Mix to combine. If you have an electric stand mixer, add the dry ingredients (flours, cocoa, spices and salt) to the bowl and add the beer-yeast mixture. Using a dough hook, mix on low speed to combine the ingredients and then increase the speed to medium for about 5 minutes. If you are doing this by hand, add the dry ingredients to a large bowl, making a well in the center, and add beer-yeast mixture and combine. Remove from the bowl onto a floured work surface and knead the dough for at least 5 minutes, until the dough is elastic and smooth. If the dough is dry, add 1 teaspoon of beer to bring it together. If the dough is too moist, add 1 teaspoon of flour at a time until the mixture is no longer sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased (with either butter or oil) large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If you would like your pretzel to have more of a sourdough quality, place the bowl in the refrigerator for 8–12 hours or overnight. The cooler temperature will slow down the fermentation, allowing the yeast to develop more flavors. If time is not on your side, let the dough sit around 72°F for 1–1 1/2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size.

Making the pretzels
Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured surface. Depending on your liking, the pretzels can be made small or large. Each recipe can make 6 large or 12 small pretzels. Divide the dough equally and roll each piece into a long rope, making sure each dough ball is rolled out to the same length. Thicker ropes will take longer to bake, thinner ropes shorter. Now, take one end of the rope in each hand and make an upside down U. Cross the ends over, give a twist, and bring each end back up to the top. Press the ends into the dough with enough pressure to make them stick together. Place onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet tray and cover with a clean damp towel for 30 minutes.

Baking the pretzels
Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a medium-sized pot (not aluminum), add 4 cups of water and 1/4 cup of baking soda and bring to a simmer. Carefully place a pretzel onto a wide spatula and slowly dip the dough into the water. Poach each side for one minute. Remove the pretzel from the water and place back onto the sheet tray. If your pot is large enough, add two or three pretzels at a time to the water. Once all the dough has been boiled, sprinkle recipe toppings evenly over the pretzels. If you like a crispier crust on your pretzels, brush the pretzel with an egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water) and then sprinkle toppings. Bake pretzels 12–18 minutes, depending on the size. If you like hard pretzels bake 20–25 minutes.


In celebration of Oktoberfest, here are two mustard recipes that go great with pretzels, bratwurst, sauerbraten, spaetzle or schnitzel.

Oktoberfest Grain Mustard
Makes 16 ounces.

Ingredients:
10 oz. Oktoberfest or Märzen
1 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup malt vinegar
2 tbsp. wildflower honey
1 tbsp. yellow mustard powder
1 tsp. salt

Directions:
In a sealable container, add beer, mustard seeds and malt vinegar. Mix to combine. Seal and let sit 4 hours to overnight. Transfer to a blender, adding honey, mustard powder and salt. Blend for 1–2 minutes, just as the seeds start to break down. Transfer to a sterile jar and refrigerate.

Rauchbier Onion Mustard
Makes 18 ounces.

Ingredients:
10 oz. Rauchbier
1 cup brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup malt vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup yellow onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. yellow mustard powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

Directions:
In a sealable container, add beer, mustard seeds and malt vinegar. Mix to combine. Seal and let sit 4 hours to overnight. In a sauté pan over medium heat, add oil and onions. Stir occasionally until the onions are golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a blender, also adding beer-mustard mixture, brown sugar, mustard powder, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth, about 2–3 minutes. Transfer to a sterile jar and refrigerate.

Other uses: Try some of the mustard in a vinaigrette, as a sauce over chicken or as a marinade for beef or pork.