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Pretzels

Pretzels are crisp crunchy bicuits brought to the United States by German colonists and adopted by the new country with great enthusiasm. They are now a favourite snack, and are sold from., street carts in much the same way as hot chestnuts are in Europe.

ingredients

about 48 pretzels
15 g (1/2 oz) Fresh yeast
1/2 tsp Sugar
250 ml (8 fl oz) 1 cup Lukewarm milk
25 g (1 oz) 2 Tbs Butter
350 g (12 oz) 3 cups Flour
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Tbs Caraway seeds
1 Egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp Coarse sea salt

method

1. Crumble the yeast into a bowl and mash in the sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk and cream the mixture to a smooth paste. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture is puffed up and frothy.

2. Melt the butter in the remaining milk over low heat. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

3. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast and milk and butter mixture. Using a spatula, gradually draw the flour into the liquid until it is incorporated and the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.

5. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to a clean, greased bowl. Cover and put in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes, or until the dough has risen slightly.

6. Turn the dough out on to the floured surface and knead for a further 4 minutes. Form the dough into a roll about 30 cm (12 in) long. Cut into 48 equal pieces and roll out each piece into a thin sausage shape about 15 cm (6 in) long. Put each dough piece on a flat surface and curve the ends towards you. Cross the loop halfway along each side and twist once. Carefully bend the ends back and press firmly on to the curve of the loop.

7. Preheat the oven to fairly hot 190°C (Gas Mark 5, 375°F).

8. Half-fill a large saucepan with boiling water and bring the water to the boil again over moderately high heat. Drop the dough pieces into the water, a few at a time. Cook for 1 minute or until they rise to the surface. Remove from the water as they rise and drain in a colander. Transfer the drained pretzels to well-greased baking sheets. Coat each one with beaten egg and sprinkle over the remaining caraway seeds. Put the sheets into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the pretzels are golden brown and firm to the touch. Cool completely and sprinkle over the salt before serving.

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