What is it about salt?

Today was an awesomely beautiful day in San Diego.  Not only was the weather picture perfect but it was one of those days were everything just falls into place and you walk around with a big smile on your face because life IS good.  I got to take a walk this morning which already put me in good spirits.

And then I remembered that I had prepared a dough to make “Bretzeln” last night but forgot to put it in the fridge and by this morning all the nicely shaped balls I had strategically placed on a round pie plate had all grown together into one big mass.  I was imagining the dough balls with lots of room between them originally, growing and growing and one dough ball telling the other: “Stay away from me, you are invading my space!” And the other dough ball replying in desperation: “I can’t help myself.  It’s not my fault, the yeast made me do it!”  And them arguing all night long on my kitchen counter until they literally grew together and all boundaries were obscured.  And all I found this morning was on big blob of dough on a pie plate.  Could I tell who was invading whose space? And did it even matter?  Whether it did to the dough balls, I will never know, but as for me…

So, I’m thinking about my “Bretzelteig” (pretzel dough – I shudder to even write this, imagining how you Americans are going to pronounce this – no offense) as I am climbing the trail on my walk listening to Katie Melua singing “It’s all in my Head”.  How very fitting!  Though some of the things, I have come to find out today are not just in my head.  And that, too, made me happy!

Anyway,  after I came home from my awesomely beautiful walk I decide to take my Bretzel making seriously.  After all I had promised my son, I would make some for him.  Now, Colin has been to Germany with me and one of the food items we both adore when we go there is “Bretzeln”.  That pretty much has always been our welcoming snack whether we arrive there at night or in the morning.  There is never a wrong time to consume a “Butterbretzel”. Now, I had just received this receipe from my favorite Aunt Brigitte and so I was dying to try it out.  I would post it for you but not only is it metric but also in German.  Sorry!

Here is a picture of the dough before I rolled it into one long string.


Innocent looking piece of "Bretzelteig"


FYI, I use the Silpat mat to roll out or knead my doughs.  The mat is always clean whereas my granite kitchen counters may not be.  And as you can see, it is not made in China.

So, I proceeded to shape my looooo……ng string of dough into a Bretzel looking shape but once I had it all together it had the audacity to shrink on me.  There are three holes in a Bretzel and luckily I have five fingers so I was able to stick one or two into each hole and try to spread it out somewhat before I placed it on the baking sheet.  This was one of the times in my life I was glad to be a creature with opposing thumbs.  Don’t know how I would have shaped my Bretzel otherwise!  Here is what it looked like after:


And voila! Die Bretzel emerges!


I was pretty impressed with my handiwork and happily continued shaping 6 more of these babies.  Then it was time to stick them in the fridge for half an hour so they get nice and cold whilst (love that word) I turned on the oven to 240 degree Celsius (don’t even ask me to convert that, because I didn’t have to, since my nice Miele oven has Imperial and metric settings). And I also got a pot of water boiling because the trick to making a good Bretzel is to treat them as they used to treat people in the insane asylums of old and give them shock therapy.  Out of the frigid cold into the boiling pot of water into which baking soda had been dumped.  Now, that begs the question: If you had to chose, would you rather be a Bretzel or a lobster?  (Sorry, that just popped into my head, you don’t need to answer that.)

So, the cold stiff Bretzel take a plunge into the boiling water bath and drop all the way to the bottom of the pot where the hang out for just a few seconds (“It’s way too hot down here, I have to come up for some cold air”) and they slowly and gracefully float to the surface.  They really do, I watched them.  And I talked to them and wished them “Welcome” as they emerged from the depth of my pot.  (If you are reading my blog for the first time, be warned, all kinds of things go on in this head of mine.  But I am fairly harmless, not to worry!) Once they were all on the surface I turned them over on the other side, so they wioul be evenly boiled.  And they got a whole lot bigger in this process.  Once they had all taken their baths, it was time to take that special tool that’s both a spoon and a sieve (sort of).  What do you call that thing?  Oh yes, a slotted spoon. Hieve those babies out of the bath and onto a parchment lined baking sheet!  Make a slash along the lower half of the Bretzel and sprinkle some salt over them before you pop them onto your pre-heated baking stone in the oven.  Bake for 10-14 minutes and you will get this:


An attempt to create a German Bretzel


See that arrow with the question mark? Looks like somebody took a piece out of this Bretzel. I wonder which of my kids couldn’t wait for me to come home to taste the goods.

Don’t they look scrumptious?  When I came home, I grabbed on of these beauties and pulled off a piece ready to experience heaven in my mouth.  Now, here comes the question of the day.  What is it about salt that can make or break a dish (or baked goods for that matter). According to King Arthur Flour’s webpage ‘Salt provides flavor. Bread baked without salt will have a flat and insipid taste.’ Really?!

Of all the ingredients going into this receipe, salt was certainly the tiniest fraction of it (1.8% to 2%) and so accidentally omitting it should not be such a big deal.  Or should it? According to my tastebuds it definitely was!  They were sorely disappointed.  And so were my kids who could NOT believe that I had done it again!

Over and out.

#traditions #bread #Bretzel #life #salt

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