Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Pretzels of the Past

Baking pretzels for the New Year has been a tradition in our family as it was in my mother's family. It is incredible how much better the pretzels look when my mother was at our house to share them with us, compared to when I made them alone, this lonely New Year's Eve without her.

I will never forget her incredibly beautiful smile when we made and shared New Year's pretzels each year.

If you share a tradition with your mother, or even if you don't, enjoy every moment with your Mom,  and take pictures!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Pretzels - Happy New Year 2013!


A family tradition in some parts of Germany is the baking of New Year's pretzels. The pretzels are big, soft on the inside, and chewy on the outside. Some make them a bit sweet and frost them, but the tradition in our family, passed down to me by my mother, Louise, is to make them plain with a bit of egg wash and only enough sugar to make sure the yeast is proofing (alive). The pretzel is more like the big pretzels sold by vendors than the small crunchy pretzels sold in bags. My mother liked the pretzel to have some crunchiness on the bottom.

Below is my modified recipe for those who may not eat dairy and fat as it includes milk and butter, followed by a more traditional recipe. My "no fat, no dairy" pretzels would look prettier if I would brush them with an egg wash, but we do not mind that they do not have the traditional shiny coating as I brush them with a bit of Rice Milk.

I use White Whole Wheat flour today, but in years past I used regular unbleached flour. I have never made them with regular Whole Wheat flour. If I were using only regular Whole Wheat Flour, I would mix the whole wheat with the unbleached at about 50-50.

                                      No Fat, No Dairy Pretzels 

Modified recipe for the above two large pretzels:

1 cup lukewarm Rice Milk (I am sure Almond, Soy milk or water would work too) (250 ml)
2 teaspoons yeast (one packet of yeast is fine at 2 1/4 tsp)
2 teaspoons sugar

I always use the same amount of sugar as yeast, but some prefer "sweet" pretzels and use as much as 1/3 cup sugar (50-60 grams). We prefer our pretzels not to be sweet. I mix the above and allow it to sit about 10 minutes to make sure the mixture smells yeasty and that I see some bubbles after a few minutes, to prove to me that the yeast is alive. I do not use metal utensils and never use a metal bowl when baking with yeast.

Beat one egg and add it to the above yeast mixture
3-4 cups of flour (500 grams) (add a bit at a time until the dough is workable)

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes and place in a covered bowl to proof until it doubles in height.

After the first proofing, form the dough into a long roll and into a pretzel shape on a greased baking sheet (I use a spray like PAM on my baking sheets, as hate to have the baked dough stick to the sheet and ruin the shape of the pretzels. Parchment paper is good too, but spray the baking sheet before putting down the parchment or the parchment paper might get into the pretzel dough. The spray holds the parchment paper on to the sheet and keeps it from getting into the pretzel).

Let the formed pretzel proof about another hour, brush with Rice Milk and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F. (Brushing with an egg yolk makes the most beautiful shiny crust, but my pretzels pictured were brushed only with a bit of Rice Milk).

I proof all of my yeast products in my cold oven as the area has no drafts and is out of the way.

Below is a sweeter and a bit softer recipe in which the dough is more like a Challah (egg) bread,
which is traditional:

1 cup milk (250 ml)
2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast (1 package)
4 Tablespoons melted butter (60 grams)
1/3 cup sugar (50-60 grams)  (this is a lot of sugar for my family and all but 2 tsp can be omitted)

1 egg beaten 
Zest of one lemon
3-4 cups of flour (500 grams) (add a bit at a time until the dough is workable)

1 egg yolk for brushing the pretzels before baking.

In this recipe, dissolve the yeast in the cup of milk and add 2 teaspoons of the total sugar and set
aside for about 15 minutes to make sure the yeast is alive. Add the melted butter being careful not
too add a hot liquid and kill the yeast, sugar, and flour and knead for about 10 minutes as in the
no fat recipe.

Proof the dough twice as in the no fat, no dairy recipe, and brush the pretzel with the egg yolk before placing it in the oven. The egg wash gives this pretzel the most beautiful shiny coat.

I have seen the pretzel braided, reminiscent of a Challah (egg) bread, and shaped in the pretzel shape.

What fascinates me is that Challah bread is baked in a round shape for the Jewish New Year and the New Year's Pretzel is a similar type dough, but eaten for the calendar New Year.

From what I have read, the New Year's pretzel is traditional in the county of Baden, in Bavaria, and in the city of my birth, Karlsruhe, Germany, it is not known in all of Germany!

Thus, although my parents were raised in different faiths as children, the same type of dough was traditional for their respective New Year's celebration! I don't know if anyone has ever made this connection!

The pretzels are traditionally eaten for breakfast on New Year's day which in our house is about one minute into the New Year.

Enjoy the pretzels and as the tile says "Let it Snow." My sweet niece who lives in Texas sent the tile mentioning her baby girl, my great-niece!