Showing authentic German food to the world has long been my mantra. And this recipe for homemade pretzel bites and an Obatzda cheese spread is one of my go-to entertaining recipes. The pretzels are easy to make. While they need several resting periods (and are not for the totally impatient), they are worth it. The cheese spread is a long-time favorite and comes together in five short minutes. Serve this up as a snack at your next party, and your friends and family will envy you for your international cooking talents.
One of the easiest ways to experience other culture is through food, as it engages all five senses. Using the universal language of food that anybody can understand can transcend any cultural barriers there may be.
I’m a German native who moved to Kansas City in 2009. Homesickness led me to start a German food blog six years later, and I named it “Dirndl Kitchen,” after the traditional Bavarian dress. After my grandma Sieghilde passed away in January 2016, my blog provided an outlet for me to mourn and manifest myself and my family’s heritage. She was my favorite, and I picked up many of my German cooking and baking skills from her.
German food can seem daunting to recreate at home; but if you search out the ingredients and make it with your own hands, you can taste the difference.
Pretzel Bites Dough Ingredients:
2/3 cup baked baking soda (see note below for baking instructions)
3.4 ounces (100 ml or g) lukewarm water
1 package of dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons (30 g) brown sugar
8 cups (1000 g) bread flour
3 1/2 teaspoons (20 g) salt
4 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon (60 g) butter
15.2 ounces (450 ml or g) ice cold water
2 cups soda water
Kosher salt, pumpkin seeds (optional)
To Make the Pretzel Bites Dough:
Preheat the oven to 300°F. When it’s at temperature, spread the baking soda in an even layer on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet and bake for an hour.
Note: The pretzels taste authentic even when substituting baking soda for food-grade lye. In the original recipe, lye is used, which can be very irritating to your skin if not handled properly.
For this alternative method, read this article from the New York Times and bake your baking soda on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil for an hour at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Baking the baking soda makes it more alkaline and brings it closer to the PH value of lye. It sounds like magic, but it works in making the pretzels taste more authentic, and authenticity is what we’re after, right?
While the baking soda is in the oven, place 100 ml of warm water, the package of dry yeast and the brown sugar in a small bowl and let sit until you see bubbles starting to form.
Sift together the flour and salt, and add in the butter, dissolved yeast mixture and the ice cold water. Use the kneading hook on your mixer, and let it work on the low setting for 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove the dough from the mixer and let it rest for 5 minutes, covered under a sheet of wax paper so it doesn’t form a skin on the outside of the dough. Then divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces and shape them into 1 1/2-inch thick logs. Let the logs cuddle against each other, and cover them with the wax paper to prevent a skin from developing on the dough’s surface.
Cut the logs into 1-inch thick slices and lay them on sheets of wax paper leaving 1 1/2-inches of space between each one. Let them rest and develop for about 30 minutes before refrigerating or freezing them for another 30 minutes. This makes the dough logs a lot easier to handle and won’t make them stick to the wax paper when removing them to dip them into the baking soda solution.
Your baking soda should be done baking now. Add the baking soda to two cups of soda water and let the baking soda dissolve. Then simply dip the pretzel bites (I used two forks) in the baking soda solution for a few seconds before transferring them onto baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Then either dip in the pumpkin seeds (I did both sides) or sprinkle with the kosher salt (I only sprinkled the top side).
Bake at 300°F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy them fresh out of the oven or let them cool first.
8.8 oz (250g) room temperature Camembert cheese or Brie cheese
1/2 tablespoon (7 g) room temperature butter
4.2 oz (120g) room temperature cream cheese
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped and divided
1/4 large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika powder
4 to 6 ounces (120 to 180ml) beer, (Paulaner Oktoberfest is recommended)
To Make The Obatzda:
To make a batch of Obatzda, place the cheese, cream cheese and butter in a bowl and mash with a fork. Add in 1 1/2 tablespoons of chives, onion, paprika powder, and beer (add the beer last and gradually). Switch to a whisk and mix until the cheese spread is uniform in consistency. Keep cool in fridge until ready to serve. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of chives (you can add a dash of paprika, as well). That’s it. Guten Appetit!
— Sophie Sadler is a German food blogger at Dirndl Kitchen. You can follow her at dirndlkitchen.com and at @dirndl_kitchen on Instagram.