What is Oktoberfest (aside from a chance to drink lots of beer)?
This was fun to research, but also made me want to hop on a plane to Germany. The main Oktoberfest is held in Munich, Germany (the heart of Bavaria) and runs from the third weekend in September to the first Sunday in October. This year, opening ceremonies started on September 19 when the mayor of Munich tapped the first keg of beer, and all the visitors got to partake. The party runs until October 4.
The original festival in 1810 was to celebrate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig I to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. He was later the King of Bavaria, known for his support of arts, culture, and his eventual abdication. The festival started small (well small for a royal wedding celebration) and eventually expanded to be the largest festival in the world. The festival celebrated its’ 200th anniversary in 2010, though it has been canceled a few times due to wars, and once a cholera outbreak. This year marks the 182nd Oktoberfest.
Traditional German food runs the gamut from sausages, schnitzel, German potato salad, pretzels, pickled things, fried things, sauerkraut, and, of course, beer. I picked pretzels. (Fun fact, pretzels have a rich history in Europe and the knot shape was considered religiously significant to Catholics as the twist looked like hands in prayer).
I’ll be honest, I was super intimidated by the prospect of making pretzels. There is yeast involved, rolling out dough, boiling stuff, making those cool twisty shapes . . . But in the end it was probably one of the more fun and interesting challenges I’ve done. The recipe I picked was by Alton Brown (of Good Eats, and Cutthroat Kitchen fame) and was clear and straightforward.
The ingredient list was easy, and I had most of it in my pantry, surprisingly (except pretzel salt, which is apparently a real thing, and not just regular old Morton’s).
I missed a picture of the yeast (also yeast is a little gross) and its foaminess. Once that was ready I added flour and butter and kneaded it with the dough hook on my Kitchenaid (I genuinely have no idea how/if this would’ve worked without it). I let the dough rise for about an hour.
This recipe makes 8, so I divided the dough and rolled each out into long ropes and twisted away! This was much easier than I thought it would be, but it definitely helped to oil the surface. I boiled them for about 30 seconds, each coated them with an egg wash and popped ’em in the oven.
Final product. And actually, they were pretty decent, soft, but crisp on the outside, and a little salty, even without the added pretzel salt on top. I sprinkled some table salt on half of them, but I’m not sure how well it worked.
What I can do better:
- More egg wash! That’s where the delicious brownness comes from.
- Divide the dough more evenly.
- Roll out the ropes more evenly. The recipe calls for 24 inch-ropes, but my kitchen isn’t great for space.
- Pretzel salt! For people that like that sort of thing. Lisa kindly suggested something with a bigger grain, like sea salt or kosher salt, too.
- Watch out for vegetable oil: I may have spilled some on the floor which resulted in some interesting dance moves.
I would absolutely make these again, maybe with beer-cheese soup, or a traditional mustard. Happy Oktoberfest to everyone, and thanks for reading!
Come back next week – Tacos!
Original recipe: Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft Pretzels