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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chocolate and salt. Who knew?

Yeah, that's right. Look at it. A chocolate covered pretzel sprinkled with rock salt. The way I see it, salt enhances flavor. So how could this be weird? It's not, trust me. The thick chocolate coating coupled with the soft chewy pretzel is amazing. Then you get a secondary sensation of the crunch of salt. It's goooooooooooooood. Too many O's? Never.


Okay, here we go with yet another childhood food memory. On my very first visit to Germany, way back in the horse and buggy days, when I was five or six (that's me on the left), one of the many amazing sensory experiences I had was biting into a fresh, soft pretzel or Brezeln, as they're called in Germany. In the morning my Oma would bring home fresh buns, rolls and huge, soft pretzels still warm from the B├Ąckerei (bakery). The pretzels had a distinct crust; dark golden brown and a white, soft and chewy crumb. Sliced in half with butter and jam, I was in heaven. 

I can't say I've had a real German pretzel for a long, long time. Maybe since then. I've had the soft pretzels you get from a street vendor but they're just not as good. A couple of years ago on my birthday I decided to host a German inspired dinner party and set up a real Abendessen or Evening Meal, which is more like lunch. I made kartoffelsalat (potato salad), wurstsalat (sausage salad), gurkensalat (cucumber salad), and had an assortment of cheeses and cured meats, sausages, graubrot (German rye bread) and of course home made soft sourdough pretzels. They were actually really fun to make and tasted pretty darn good, too. The only thing missing was the key, albeit caustic, ingredient - sodium hydroxide. I know, sounds nasty. And it is. But handled properly this food-grade lye solution is responsible for the shiny, deep brown crust and even the flavor found only on German soft pretzels and pretzel rolls. These are called Laugenbrezel or Lye Pretzels....which these pictured below...were not. Good for a first try but don't quit your day job.

Until I found this magical ingredient (not gonna find THAT at Safeway) I decided to play around with some toppings. First I tried some sesame seeds and sunflower seeds which were okay but didn't really do anything for me. I needed something different and for some reason I thought about chocolate. Maybe because I had some sitting in the cupboard and using it would prevent me from nibbling on it every day. (Gee, great idea. Like I'm not going to now consume IT and pretzels simultaneously. What logic...sigh.) Bread and chocolate go great together. There's pan de chocolate, chocolate bread pudding and don't forget Nutella! Not exactly chocolate, but you get picture. Chocolate covered pretzels with a sprinkle of rock salt. A simple idea but oh so good. One I'm going to try to perfect. And one that doesn't require safety goggles and rubber gloves! To be continued...