26 March 2012

Chocolate Pretzels – ‘Mürbe Brezeln’

These sweet pretzels are a fairly typical sight in German bakeries (or at least in bakeries located in the south-west of the country). I love the flavour and interesting consistency. They are a combination of flaky puff pastry and buttery chocolate-flavoured shortcrust pastry. These are twisted together into a pretzel shape, baked and then decorated with icing and slivers of almonds. I have to admit that these are a bit fiddly and time-intensive (even if shop bought puff pastry is used), but they are certainly worth spending some time on. All it takes is a bit of patience. From my own experience, it helps to try and keep calm and to resist the urge to just throw everything into the bin and to stomp upstairs if the first couple of pretzels don't work out. The trick is to get the dough to the right temperature – cold enough for the puff pastry not to get too sticky and warm enough for the short crust pastry not to be too brittle. 

This recipe makes about 20 pretzels:

250 g flour
75 g icing sugar
150 g cold butter
25 g cocoa powder
1 egg

One pack of ready rolled all-butter puff pastry (if you really have a lot of time on your hands and you want to make the puff pastry yourself: about 400 g should be enough)

1 egg white
100g icing sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
Sliced almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan

Combine the flour, icing sugar, butter (cut into little cubes), cocoa powder and egg and quickly knead into a ball of pastry. It should be quite firm and not sticky. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

Unroll the puff pastry. Roll out the chocolate pastry with a rolling pin to match the shape and size of the puff pastry sheet. It’s best to do this on a relatively non-stick surface, such as a silicone mat or some heavy duty cling film (I used a plastic place mat in the picture below). The chocolate pastry should be about ½ cm thick or maybe a bit less. Brush the egg white onto the chocolate pastry and top it with the puff pastry sheet. Carefully press the two layers together. If there is a bit of overlap, straighten the edges with a sharp knife. Now it all depends on the consistency and temperature of the pastry. If it feels sticky (especially the puff pastry) it can help to let the whole thing firm up in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

To shape the first pretzel, use a sharp knife to cut a thin strip of double pastry (about 1 ½ cm) along the long edge of the pastry sheet. Carefully twist the strip of pastry and then shape into a pretzel. The chocolate pastry is more brittle than the puff pastry and it will crack a bit or even break in some places. Don’t let this deter you and carry on. Carefully lift the pretzel onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Repeat about 20 times until all the pastry is used up...

Bake in the preheated oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the puff pastry starts turning golden.

In the meantime, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice. Add a bit of water if required – the icing should not be too thick. Brush the warm pretzels with the icing and then sprinkle with a few almond slices. Leave to set and cool and then store in a tin.

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