The German who baked what may be the world’s best Pretzels
In the tiny Bavarian town of Dachsbach, Arnd Erbel bakes pretzels and pretzel breads the old-fashioned way.
Germany may not have plenty of sunshine but grains such as rye and spelt tend to thrive well in Germany compared to other European countries. Thanks to these grains, Germany has been named a world power for the production of various types of breads.The wheat-based breads remained in the southern cities like Munich and Stuttgart while the north is known for grain breads.
Ben Crair quoted on saveur, paid a visit to German baking icon, Arnd Erbel, who having been under the tutelage of his father and various trainings gained in baking over the years is nowknown for his German-¬style soft pretzels,a baked delicacy that originated in European monasteries in the middle ages. While Americans tend to see soft pretzels as a simple grub eaten at fields or mall food courts, Germans value them as a national symbol.
Ben Crair gave vivid description of how Arnd Erbel prepared what has come to be known as likely the best Pretzels worldwide. As reported on getpocket.com; Erbel turned 25 pretzels by hand, bending them easily into knots. He then put on elastic gloves to prepare to dip each raw pretzel in lye, a strong and corrosive alkaline solution that has the power to scorch flesh. Maillard reaction that gives so many foods their crust, aroma, and distinct flavoUr during cooking is speed-up
The lye disperses from the pretzel’s exterior in the oven. He prudently covered the pretzels in the lye and cut their exteriors with a razor to allow the dough to expand in the oven. While baking, they turned a deep, even, and glossy brown as the scores expanded, creating a window into the doughy white centrEs. Erbel removed them with a woody peel after 12 minutes and sprinkled them with salt.
Ben Crair also gave an insight into how good it felt eating this pretzel prepared by Erbel. He reported “having a feel of the swift conversion from thin, firm crust to chewy interior is one of the pleasures of biting into a pretzel. My teeth broke through the crust and sank into the rubbery middle as the salt melted on my tongue. The flavours was mild, but the smoothness was extraordinary¬—a fact that makes Erbelextremely proud, since he does not use baker’s yeast, putting your faith instead, on the ordinary fermentation normally used in sourdough baking.”
Erbel through the careful manipulation of natural leavening, not only makes pretzels, but also dozens of different German breads and delicate specialties, such as croissants, stollen, and focaccia, without using packaged yeast and without any much sour flavours emanating.
The remarkable baker is married, has a daughter and currently lives with his wife and daughter in the same apartment where he grew up in Dachsbach, a small village where his family had lived for more than 300 years.He said during his interview, that his colleagues had tried to persuade him to open bakeries in Berlin, Munich, and London, but he has no desire to relocate his bakery closer to the Michelin-starred restaurants he bakes for. Remaining in Dachsbach is what he wants and he is very good at what he does.