You only need one recipe for German pretzel buns, and this is it. Blogger Meike Peters, of the acclaimed Eat in My Kitchen, has a new cookbook out filled with her favorite recipes. Inspired by European comfort food and Mediterranean classics, this collection of 100 dishes is a must-read for anyone looking for a cooking lesson with inimitable charm.
These buns are soft and spongy inside, with a thin brown crust that’s sprinkled with coarse sea salt. The secret to these buns is giving them a quick bath in a boiling alkaline solution before popping them in the oven — this is what gives them their distinctive flavor and color. I use baking soda to give the water a high pH level. The mixture isn’t as strong as the lye used in professional bakeries, but it’s safer and still creates that irresistible pretzel look and taste.
- 3 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour (preferably white spelt or unbleached wheat)
- 1 1/4-ounce envelope fact-acting yeast
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 1/4 cups water, lukewarm
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 3 tablespoons baking soda, for the alkaline solution
- coarse sea salt
For the buns
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the water and butter — the mixture should be lukewarm. Add to the flour mixture and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer for a few minutes or until well combined. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a work surface and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for a few minutes until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 100°F (35°C) warm oven, for 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide the dough into 10 equal (roughly 3-ounce) portions. Dust your hands with flour, lay a portion of dough on the palm of one hand, and with the other hand forming a dome over the dough, roll it for about 10 seconds until its top is round and firm. This process creates surface tension and prevents the buns from becoming flat. Continue with the remaining dough, then cover with a tea towel and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until puffy.
Preheat the oven to 425°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large pot, wide enough to fit 2 buns at once, bring 4¼ cups of water and the baking soda to a boil. Watch the pot; the baking soda-water mixture will foam up. With a slotted ladle or spoon, slip two buns gently into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, turn them over, and cook for another 30 seconds. The buns don’t need to be completely covered with the solution, but mind that they don’t stick to the bottom. Transfer the buns to the lined baking sheets, score a cross on the buns, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Cook the remaining buns in the same manner, then bake, one sheet at a time, for about 16 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy warm with unsalted butter.