Updated: Feb 4
Germany is known for their incredible large soft pretzels, known as 'Laugenbrezel,' and in the south, especially in Bavaria, people eat them regularly with coarse mustard and Weißwurst finished with a tall glass of Weißbier.
Weißwurst is a sausage made of veal. It is boiled and you must peel off the skin. It is soft and tender and absolutely delicious!
This picture is from July 2018 when I just started baking gluten free German pretzels.
But here in the state of Hessen (cities like Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, Mainz and of course where I live, the area of the Rheingau) we eat our Brezeln with Spundekäs'. And yes I will be switching back and forth using the words 'Brezeln' and 'pretzels' interchangeably... because in this crazy house we constantly use English and German... sometimes in one sentence.
Here is a picture of my homemade Spundekäs'
What is Spundekäs'?
It is a creamy dip made of cream cheese, Quark and Schmand that has been whipped. Then of course comes the addition of freshly minced garlic and two types of dried paprika; sweet and spicy. That's basically it! And it is LOVED by young and old here. Everyone eats it. We see it mostly at wine stands in the area. Nothing goes better with a glass of local wine than a fresh German pretzel and some Spundekäs' while sitting at your local wine stand surrounded by the vineyards. I absolutely LOVE our Kiedrich wine stand. The local wineries (just wineries here in Kiedrich) rotate weekends so you have to check the website to see which winery will be there. Steinmacher & Sohn is one of my absolute favorites and I always start off with a glass of their Sekt (sparkling wine).
The pretzel on the left I did with my kids and I forgot to do the traditional twist in the middle. Ooops!
When kids have their birthday in school many parents provide a full on breakfast instead of just cupcakes. They deliver a bag of bakery bought Brezeln, Spundekäs', and fresh cut up veggies. You would be surprised that German kids very often crave this instead of something sweet. For my daughter's birthday... I did both! You know me, I can't NOT provide a homemade baked good. It goes against everything I believe in.
This was all for the party at Kindergarten... and then I did a whole other kids birthday
You can see in the first picture that I was... lazy. Sorry readers. I bought pretzels from the bakery and Spundekäs from the grocery store. This was also back in Sept 2019 and I didn't think I could handle baking cupcakes (She wanted lemon blueberry cupcakes with the swirl of lemon and blueberry frosting) and then the next day a carrot cake (yes that is her favorite cake) and cake pops... AND fresh pretzels. So I just went around the corner and bought them.
You can buy premade Spudekäs' in the grocery stores but homemade is by far superior. What I love about homemade Spundekäs' is that it only takes about 5 minutes of work with just a handful of ingredients. Just put all the ingredients in a stand mixer, food processor or a mixing bowl and you can use a hand mixer and whip it all up for 3-5 minutes. Cover and chill for at least 3 hours. That's it!
German Ingredients used for Spundekäs'
Cream cheese, plain
Schmand (similar to sour cream so if you can't find Schmand add more cream cheese or sour cream)
Speisequark (kind of like yogurt)
sweet and spicy paprika
Spundekäs' is the most authentic dip that you will find in this region. Many Germans do not even know about it! Even my husband and his parents, who ARE German, but grew up in Dortmund which is in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen (only 2-3 hours north from where we live now) had no idea what Spundekäs' was or even that it existed!
Another fun local German fact. Here in Hessen there is a dialect. Every area of Germany has their dialect, which can be similar to 'High German' or the German you hear on the news, but locals speak dialect with each other. Sometimes it is the melody and accent that changes (think English from Georgia compared to New York) or actual words are completely different. Much more so than just Soda and Pop. One part of the Hessen dialect is to cut off words that end in an 'e.' Normally we would have a word like Schule (school) pronounced shoo-la but here in Hessen we often just say Schul' pronounced 'shool'. That is why you see in the word Spundekäs' the e is left off. Normally it SHOULD be spelled Spundekäse, Käse means cheese in German.
I love the traditions here in Germany, especially when they are SO yummy! But being gluten free means I can never partake in a soft fresh pretzel. Unless I make it myself!
Today I have for you an easy tutorial on how to make homemade gluten free German pretzels with recipes for both the pretzels and the Spundekäs'.
Authentic Gluten Free German Pretzels:
Here are the ingredients that you will need with the addition of apple cider vinegar.
(Sorry! I forgot to put it in the picture)
The bottle of water is plain, unflavored, sparkling water. While the baking soda is American, I did buy it from a German grocery store... in the 'American' section. If you are not making this gluten free then you do not need the Xanthan Gum nor do you need the apple cider. Those two ingredients help to ensure a light and fluffy pretzel that won't fall apart.
I made my dough in the bread machine but you can easily make it with a stand mixer or even by hand. You know I love my bread machine... just dump the ingredients in and press start. What could be easier???
If you do not have a bread machine then please refer to the recipe below for steps on how to make pretzels with a stand mixer or by hand.
I enlisted my youngest helper who was eager to put on her apron.
Pretzels are incredibly fun to make with kids. They are SO easy and make the perfect afternoon snack. My oldest is at tennis camp this week so little Nathalie and I got to work.
I like to dig a well for my yeast and then in opposite corners go my brown sugar and salt.
After pushing start and a minute or two of mixing, your dough should look like this:
Feel free to open the lid and press your finger into the dough. If it feels really dry then add a tablespoon or two of warm milk. If the dough is sticking SO much to the sides then add a tablespoon or two of flour.
My dough cycle takes 90 minutes which includes the rest and rise period. Once that is done the dough should have risen, not exactly double in size but maybe by half. It should feel soft and fluffy.
Whenever I make rolls or bagels or pretzels, I always measure out my dough so that I can divide by how many I want to make. I thought I could get 8 pretzels so I divided the entirety by 8. (I ended up only with 7 because I added a little bit more dough to each pretzel as I was making them.)
Then it is important to note that German Brezeln are different and have a little 'belly' at the bottom. The rope of dough that you will roll out is not even. You need to leave a little extra 'baby bump' in the middle. And that rope should measure to about 16 inches or 40 centimeters long.
Here are the picture steps on how to form your pretzel:
On the left I made a U shape and twisted the tops. Then I twisted again. Then you have to invert the top over and press the ends onto the sides. Sounds confusing???
Here is a video showing you each step. Now, rolling out gluten free dough is not easy. It is not as pliable as normal dough so you need to be carefull. It can break, just put it back together and have a small bowl of water near by incase you feel it is really dry. Instead of just rolling, I like to start by pinching the dough. Just a technique that I prefer using when working with gluten free dough.
Then once you have all your Brezeln formed just leave them out, not covered, on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper for a minimum of 30 minutes. This will help them to dry out, which is what you want. A true German pretzel it crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.
After the 30ish minutes, you need to boil them in a pot of water mixed with baking soda. Once the water is at a full boil, carefully lower one pretzel at a time using a slotted spoon. Just leave it in the mixture for about 5-7 seconds. Then put the pretzel back onto the tray with the parchment paper. This is the same method that you would use to make bagels.
Then if you like, sprinkle each pretzel with coarse salt. Also, use a sharp knife and make a slit (about 1/4in deep) in that belly of the pretzel.
I had a tiny bit of dough leftover so I just made a little mini-ball. Came out great!
Bake in a preheated oven (using the convection setting, fan setting) at 390 degrees fahrenheit or 200 degrees celsius for about 18-20 minutes. Halfway through the bake, rotate your pan so that the pretzels can brown up nice and even.
Wait until they are cool enough to handle... if you can wait. I usually can't. And serve along side your freshly made Spundekäs'.
Take a bite and just look at that fluffy inside.
These pretzels taste like they were straight from my neighborhood bakery. Yes they do take some work and planning but with all these rainy days we have been experiencing it makes for a fun afternoon project.