Love, Laugh, Bake! By Silvia Colloca, Published by Plum, RRP $39.00, Photography by Rob Palmer
THE BREAD BASKET
“If you have travelled around those magnificent lands in the north of Italy, right on the border with Switzerland
and Austria, you may have wondered if all of a sudden you had crossed the frontier! Fair enough too, as
the first language spoken up there is German, and the culinary traditions of the area borrow more from the
neighbouring countries than the rest of Italy. This is where local restaurants offer wonderfully rich cabbage and
pork stews, spaetzle soup, apple strudel and the much-loved pretzel to accompany pints of Weissbier.
The traditional recipe for pretzels is a tricky one. It’s not complicated but in order to achieve the unique chewy
crumb and bronzed caramelised crust you need one crucial ingredient: the very caustic and abrasive lye. It is
true that you only need it at 3% of its strength, but after reading that I would need to protect myself with
thick gloves and safety goggles and (knowing how accident prone I am) I had to come up with an alternative.
Using bicarbonate of soda may make some purists cringe, but I am very happy to say the pretzels taste divine
and my hands and eyes are burn free! ” (p.52)
375 ml (1½ cups) lukewarm water
2 teaspoons dried yeast
225 g (1½ cups) 00 or plain flour
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
375 g (2½ cups) 00 or plain flour
40 g unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons barley malt syrup
salt flakes, poppy seeds or sesame
seeds, to coat
To make the pre-ferment, mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl to
form a wet dough. Let it stand for 2 hours or until it looks very bubbly and has
doubled in size.
Add the flour, butter and salt to the risen ferment and knead for 6–8 minutes
or until smooth. Use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook if you have one
handy. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and prove at room temperature
for 1½ hours or until more than doubled in size.
Line a large baking tray with baking paper. Gently scrape the dough out of the
bowl onto a floured surface and form into an oval shape. Cut it evenly into
eight pieces and roll each piece into a long thin rope. Twist the rope around to
form a pretzel shape and gently press the ends into place.
Place the pretzels on the prepared tray, leaving plenty of room for spreading.
Cover with a damp tea towel and rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
The pretzels will grow by about one-third during this time.
Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add the bicarbonate of soda
and barley malt syrup. Working with a few pretzels at a time, drop them into
the simmering water for 1 minute on each side, then lift them out gently with
a slotted spoon back onto the tray. Sprinkle liberally with salt, poppy seeds or
sesame seeds and bake for 12–15 minutes or until golden. Remove and cool
on a wire rack for 30 minutes before eating.