Saturday 11 April 2020

Bretzel Buns - recipe

Don't be fooled by the date and the look of these - they are not hot cross buns!!!  But they're hot buns with crosses in them and they're damn tasty!   Bretzel buns!  There are so many variations on how to make these guys, I ended up devising my own recipe after reading/watching at least 4 that had a variety of commonalities and deviances.  My recipe doesn't use milk - we typically don't have any the house, and seeing as I found other recipes without milk I figured I'd get away with it. I definitely did!

Here's the recipe, which largely assumes you're not terribly familiar with baking bread or working with yeast.

Serving Size: 4 pretzel buns

1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
160ml water, lukewarm (you can weigh this if you find it easier - 160ml = 160g)
1/2 teaspoon sugar (this is to feed the yeast and wake it up)
25g butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons baking soda, for the alkaline solution
coarse sea salt
melted butter to brush the rolls


Prepare the yeast - measure the water into a medium bowl, ensure it's a little above body temperature (if you're using a metal bowl run hot water over it first to warm it up a little). Mix in the sugar and dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over this and stir gently. Leave in a warm place (light on in the oven is a good option) for about 10 minutes until the yeast has frothed up - if it doesn't, you'll need to throw it and start over (I had to do this with my first lot - the day was cooler than I realised and the yeast just didn't wake up. If your water is too hot you can kill the yeast, so be mindful of this when you prep - about 40 degrees is good - slightly warmer than body temp.)

Once the yeast has frothed up, add the cooled melted butter and whisk together. Place most of the flour on top of this liquid along with the salt. Mix together initially with a spoon or spatula, then use your hands and knead in the bowl to create the dough. Once most of the flour has been incorporated turn out on to the bench and continue kneading until smooth. About 3 - 5 minutes. If it's sticky add the flour you didn't add in the first place. I used all but about 1T of my flour.

Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled bowl and place in a warm place (again, oven with the light on) for an hour or until doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. 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 220°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water (roughly! just make sure the pot is big enough widthwise for a bun) and the baking soda to a boil. Watch the pot; the baking soda-water mixture may foam up. With a slotted ladle or spoon, slip a bun gently into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, turn 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 sheet, score a cross on the buns, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Cook the remaining buns in the same manner, then bake, for about 16 minutes or until golden brown.They'll feel quite solid coming out of the oven, but it's ok! Transfer to a cooling rack and brush each one with melted butter - this helps them soften, though they will soften a little as they cool.

We enjoyed our first batch as burger buns, but they are amazing on their own or with butter as well. Usually I'd be doubling the recipe, but I had a fresh loaf of sourdough in our 2 person household when I concocted this, so just made enough for a meal and a test!

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