One of my favorite things about German culture is the traditional breakfast, which consists of a cold meats, cheeses, jams, butter, spreads, soft-boiled eggs, coffee and plenty of fresh bread. On our many visits to Stuttgart, we have spent hours around the breakfast table, the sun flooding in through the windows as the morning turns to afternoon and coffee mugs are refilled again and again.
From sprouted spelt to sesame, the array of seedy, wholesome breads served at German breakfast all act as hearty vessels for the table's offerings. In addition to rolls and loafs, there are always a few prized laugenbrezel, or traditional German soft pretzels, covered in coarse salt, crispy and golden on the outside, pillowy and sour on the inside. If you have every had a proper pretzel from a German bakery, you understand what makes these so special. You also know that the best way to enjoy them is with a generous smear of fresh, quality butter.
Contrary to what you might think, these pretzels are actually fairly easy to make at home. Sure, it takes practice to get that perfect twist down, but looks aren't everything. You likely have all of the ingredients on hand, and you can make a batch of them on a whim from start to finish in one morning (unlike other breads which take more time to rise).
This weekend, I made these wonderfully sour, salty pretzels with the intention of enjoying them slowly, along with their breakfast accompaniments. It can be hard to make the time to do so, but it is incredibly rejuvenating to spend a long lazy morning grazing, chatting, and relaxing at the table.
Laugenbrezel (German Pretzels)
2 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 standard packet)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
1/8 teaspoon fine salt
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
In a mixing bowl, stir flour, yeast and sugar until combined. Add milk and salt. Stir until dough comes together. Cover with a tea towel and sit in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.
On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 10-inch log; cut into 8 even pieces. Roll each individual piece into thin strips; form into a pretzel shape.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Stir in baking soda. Working in batches, gently drop pretzels into boiling water for 30 seconds. Transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle pretzels with coarse sea salt and bake until golden, 25-30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with very good butter.
Makes 8 pretzels