(Makes 8 medium size)
300g strong white flour
100g rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon fresh yeast
250ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
A pan of simmering water
4 tsps bicarbonate of soda
1. Measure the water and stir in the fresh yeast. Place the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, pour in the yeast liquid and add the olive oil.
2. Have a little water to hand to add if necessary. Remember, it is better for your dough to be wetter (slack) rather than drier (tight). Begin to mix by stirring the ingredients together with a knife, cutting through the dough as it forms. When it gets too stiff for the knife, use your hand to squeeze the mixture together. As it forms into a solid mass, keep turning it over and pressing it down to pick up the flour at the bottom of the bowl – but make sure it stays soft. Don’t be afraid to add more water to keep it soft! When all the flour has been mixed in, wipe the bowl around with the dough, turn it out onto the worktop and begin to knead.
3. Knead by flattening the dough out, folding it over and flattening it again. If the dough is too sticky, instead of putting extra flour on your worktop, place some in the bowl, put the dough back in and turn it round to coat it all over. That way you keep the flour under control and you won’t be tempted to add too much. Knead until the dough becomes smooth – and then stop before you get fed up!
4. Put a large pan of water on to boil, about 2 centimetres deep and put the oven on at 220C, 425F or gas 7. Place the dough onto your worktop and divide it into 8 pieces.
5. Roll each piece into long ropes about as long as your forearm and hand. Take one of the ropes about half way along and hold it up. Pinch the halfway mark slightly. Take one end and position it about 2cm on the other side of the pinch mark. Do the same with the other then adjust the position of each end so that all three holes are the same size. Pinch the joins quite firmly to attach. Place on a floured board.
6. Let them rise for a little while until you see that they’ve increased slightly in size and take them over to the pan of water. Add 4 heaped teaspoons of bicarb to the water. With the water just simmering, gently lower several pretzels into the water, one at a time. Don’t overcrowd the pan because they will plump out somewhat in the hot water.
7. Using an egg slice, flip the bagels over after 30 seconds (wet the side of the pan first, so they don’t stick). Give them another 30 seconds, take them out, place them on a prepared baking sheet and put them straight into the oven.
8. Now bring the water back to the simmer and repeat with the rest of the pretzels. The pretzels are done when they are brown underneath - about 15 minutes in my electric oven.
If you wish, you can sprinkle these with coarse salt – brush with water, first.