île de Païn on how to make German pretzels

In Munich, weissbier and pretzels (with the requisite weisswurst and sweet mustard) are perfectly acceptable breakfast rations, particularly after the glockenspiel strikes noon.

Referred to as laugenbrezel inGermany, the pretzel’s dark, glazed crust is a result of being dipped in a lye solution before baking. For a very special, purist pretzel, visit île de Païn bakery in Knysna, where master baker Markus Farbinger uses wood ash to the same effect according to a 100-year-old recipe.


For the purposes of the home cook, we’ve used bicarbonate of soda. Pretzels are best eaten warm on the day they are baked. Guten Appetit!






500g white bread flour


200-250ml milk, lukewarm


10g (1 sachet) instant dried yeast


80g butter, cubed


5ml (1 tsp) salt


5 litres water, for boiling


60ml (4 tbsp) bicarbonate of soda


1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten


Coarse sea salt




Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour the milk into the well and gently stir the yeast and a little of the flour into the milk. Cover with a clean towel and set aside in a warm place for 5-7 minutes or until the milk mixture looks foamy. Mix the milk mixture into the flour and gradually mix in the butter and then the salt.


Knead in the bowl, folding the dough over itself until it is smooth. Form into a ball and cover with a clean towel. Leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.


In a large pot bring the water to the boil. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and keep at a simmer. Knock back the dough and divide into 6 pieces. Roll each piece out to about 45cm long and shape with a thick middle and tapered ends.


Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place a length of dough on a clean surface. Bring both ends towards you, cross them over, twist them again and fold them back to join the thick side of the pretzel. Dab some water under each end so it sticks to the body of the pretzel. Continue until you have 6 pretzel shapes.


Cook the pretzels one at a time in the simmering bicarb solution. Lower the pretzel in gently, turn once and remove when puffy, about 30 seconds for each. Place on the prepared baking tray and brush all over with egg yolk. Make a small cut in the thick side of the pretzel and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until dark golden. Immediately transfer pretzels to a wire rack and serve while still warm.

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