Pretzel bread

9:50 PM

If there is one thing I still miss from Switzerland, it is bread, though over the year the choice has increased here and I’m no longer limited to white semi-sweet sliced toaster bread as I was when I first arrived in 2003. But Indians like their bread soft, while European like me prefer a harder crust.
My favourite of all back home is a bread we call “Sils” bread, or “Delice” in French, it is basically the same dough used for the giant German Pretzels, and is probably part of Switzerland’s German heritage. The best way to enjoy these is just with butter, but you can make sandwiches of all kind with them.
Now when I first got my microwave/convection oven I had bread baking woes due to poor quality yeast available in stores in Bangalore, but I solved that problem when I went back to Switzerland for two months in 2008, I stocked up on tons of individual dry yeast packs, they are light weight, and you can put a lot in your suitcase, I also asked friends to bring me back some when they came to visit me in India, with the result I have a substantial stock of dry yeast pouches stored in my kitchen so that I can bake my own bread whenever I crave something special.
Once the yeast problem has been solved, and I returned to India after 2 months of stuffing myself with Sils bread as if it was going out of fashion I decided that making my own might not be a bad idea, but had no clue on how they got the shiny glossy brown crust that is so typical for the bread, so I googled it and found a recipe that was easy enough to follow. The brown crust, as I found out is the result of a chemical reaction caused by the heat of the baking process on a bread that has been poached in a mix of salt and soda bi-carb (baking soda) before the actual baking phase. The recipe is a breeze to follow, the result is yummy and that bread freezes very well. above is the picture of the mini-rolls I made for my daughter’s birthday party, I made mini cheese sandwiches, and they were a real hit with the kids (each sandwich was gold ball sized).

Here is the recipe in question, you will of course need quality yeast, if you can’t find a good dry yeast, ask your baker where to get some, fresh or dry.

500g maida (white flour)
30g softened butter
1tsp salt
7g of dry yeast (one pack)
300ml of a half/half mix of milk and water

Put all the ingredients in a bowl or in the food processor with the dough hook and knead. take it out of the bowl and stretch and knead vigorously for about 7-10 minutes so that the dough gets a lot of air trapped in.

Let the dough rest in a bowl covered with cling wrap or a thick towel for at least one hour to let it double in size. 
Knock the dough and take small portion of it to shape them like buns, or balls of the desired size and put on a baking tray lined with baking parchment (or greased), cover with a towel, and prepare the dip.

Ingredient for the dip:

1 litre water in a sauce pan
100g of baking soda (soda bi-carb)
1tbsp of salt

Preheat the oven to 200 C degree, and bring the dip water to a boil on the stove.

Once the dip start boiling start poaching the buns one by one, leave them in the water for about  30 seconds, and put them back on the baking tray. Once all the buns have been poached, make slits on the top of each buns to prevent unattractive cracks.

Bake for about 25 minutes, less if the buns are tiny, look for a rich brown crust. Just before taking the buns out of the oven, pour a little milk in a bowl and take a pastry brush out. As soon as you take the bun out of the oven without removing them from the tray yet, start brushing them all with milk, this will ensure that they will look glossy, if you don’t brush them they will have a mate dull crust, but this is in no way going to affect how they taste, the milk brush is a cosmetic procedure, then transfer to a wire rack and let them cool down a little, though there is nothing better than biting in still lukewarm bun, for me that does it, it brings back the feeling of buying a pretzel at any of the pretzel carts you find in every Swiss cities which beacon you with their fresh bread smell in the cold winter streets. Bliss! 


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