Sweet Pretzels for St. Martin’s Day

Tomorrow (11/11) is St. Martin’s Day. Here in Germany, the kids carry colorful lanterns through the streets, following St. Martin on his horse for a small procession. Afterwards, St. Martin gifts the kids with a Stutenkerl (a man baked from a yeasted dough) or a sweet pretzel.

Those pretzels are available in every bakery up to two weeks before St. Martin’s and a while after, but the homemade ones always taste better. I made 3 adult sized ones as a sweet treat for me and friends, and 3 huge ones to take to work, so the kindergarten kids can share them like St. Martin shared his cloak with the beggar.

The pretzels are made from an enriched yeast dough and I made a quadruple batch today. I used my potato yeast, you can use industrial if you prefer.

For 1 sharing pretzel OR 3-4 personal sized ones you need:

  • 350g all purpose flour
  • 125g warm milk
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g sugar
  • 50g melted and cooled butter
  • 50g sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp potato yeast (or 1 sachet / 7g / 2 tsp dried yeast)

for later:

  • eggwash made from 1 egg and a splash of milk (add a pinch of salt if the egg white is being difficult and doesn’t want to get mixed)
  • pearl sugar

There is a “proper” way to make an enriched yeast dough, but I don’t really see a difference in the end product when I compare it to my “just throw it in” method.

The proper way: knead everything except butter and eggs into a smooth dough. Add the egg(s), (one by one if you make a big batch) and keep kneading until the windowpane test is nearly possible, then add the icy cold butter in tiny cubes and work it in.

My way: use melted and cooled butter, throw everything at once into the mixing bowl and mix/knead until the dough passes the windowpane test. It takes a bit longer sometimes, but I never had a dough not get there.

Divide your dough into portion sizes and pre-shape the portions into balls. Let them rest for about 30 minutes under a damp towel or an upside down bowl. Then turn the balls into thick logs before you roll them into long ropes. If the dough isn’t cooperating, give it 10 minutes to relax between steps.

Coil the ropes of dough onto parchment paper and twist the ends into a pretzel shape. Doesn’t have to be pretty, the shape will always change a bit during rise and some more during the bake.

Cover the pretzels with a damp towel or piece of plastic wrap (I use a cut open trash bag) so the dough doesn’t dry out and let it rise until it’s all puffy. If you carefully poke it and your finger leaves a dent that doesn’t fill up again, it’s done.

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C / 340F. I kept the baking steel in the oven. Brush your pretzels with the egg wash, sprinkle some pearl sugar all over, and bake them for about 20 minutes. Core temp was 93°C / 199F at that point. That’s perfect. The pretzels were done while still super soft and fluffy. They firmed up a little bit when they cooled and should be absolutely delicious for tomorrow’s breakfast.

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