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Soft Pretzels With Muddy Fork Bakery

A finished pretzel, baked, golden brown

German-style pretzels have a fat belly, and that's where you want to score them, just before baking. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

This recipe comes from Eric Schedler of Muddy Fork Bakery.

Muddy Fork Bakery makes fresh hot pretzels every week for the Saturday markets. Since they like to use local ingredients, they usually use lard in their pretzel dough, since they can't get locally-made butter. You can use lard, butter, shortening or possibly even coconut oil. But a liquid oil probably won't work as well. The fat needs to solidify in the fridge before dipping in the lye solution and baking the pretzels. 

Muddy Fork uses a lye solution for that signature thin, flavorful brown skin. If you don't want to use lye, you can make a boiling baking soda solution, but note that the pretzels are difficult to handle when you dip them in boiling water. It is challenging to keep them shaped. 

Note that this recipe uses mostly weights rather than cups. This method of measurement is easier, more accurate and the standard method for most professional bakers. Many home cooks are purchasing home scales and discovering how easy weighing ingredients can be. Bonus: you end up with fewer dishes to wash! The conversions in this recipe are approximate. 

Soft Pretzels

Ingredients

255 g water (just over 1 cup)

2 g yeast (about ½ tsp)

35 g melted butter or lard (approximately 2 1/2 tablespoons)

425 g all-purpose flour (approximately 2 3/4 cups)

8.5 g salt (about 2 tsp)

 

Instructions

Dissolve yeast in water, then add all the other ingredients and mix until evenly incorporated.

“Fold” the dough 3 times over 3 hours. Each “fold” consists of pulling the dough from the edge of the bowl into the middle and pressing down lightly, rotating the bowl slightly, and repeating until you’ve worked your way all the way around the bowl once or twice.

Place the dough in the fridge to cool and relax for 2 hours up to overnight.

When you are ready to form the pretzels, flatten the dough and cut 6 four-ounce rectangles from the dough.

Roll up each rectangle into a rope about 16 inches long, thicker in the middle than the ends.

Let rest 10 to 20 minutes.

Roll to 36 to 42 inches long, with the middle 4 to 5 inches thicker than the rest, and tapered to the ends. You can leave a small knob of dough at the very ends.

Twist into a pretzel shape (be sure that the ends cross over and back).

Let rest, uncovered, in the fridge until firm (an hour or more).

Prepare a small amount of lye dip - 1 liter of water to 40 g of food-grade lye beads (4% solution). Always wear eye protection and gloves, and only add lye to water.

Dip pretzels for 5 seconds, then place on a parchment-lined pan.

Use only silicone-based parchment (other materials may bond to the lye-dipped pretzels).

Sprinkle with salt and score the thick “belly” with a razor.

Bake at 450 degrees until reddish-brown.

(makes 6 x 4 oz pretzels)

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