Taste of childhood memories: Hungarian salty pretzel

Hungarian salty pretzel from the Taste of Memories country kitchenI am thumbing through my grandmother’s recipe book and suddenly the recipe of salty pretzels catches my eyes. How does it come that I have never noticed it so far? It immediately brings up all the happy memories: children’s days, carousels, visits in the zoo, the pet market where we we begged our grandmother to buy a white hamster for us, what she finally did and my mother thought it is a mouse when we arrived home… Candy-floss and honeycomb toffee which I had to try although I didn’t like them so much and something else which I really liked: salty pretzels. Not as dense as the Bavarian one, not as soft as the ones we get in bakeries nowadays. It is crispy, with a crunchy salty glaze that you could break off depending how much you liked salt.
I look out the window and nature assures me with little signs that spring finally has arrived. I can still be childishly happy for any single change in the garden, as if I saw it the first time. Snowdrops already appeared under the jasmine bushes, at the entrance door bulb flowers creep out of their bed, our fruit trees sprout and singing of birds awaken us in the morning. 
Hungarian salty pretzel from the Taste of Memories country kitchen

I think about spring weekends, long walks, hiking and blooming trees and I see ourselves as we discover the region with our backpack full with pretzels. I get the cookbook and go to the kitchen because I have no doubt any more what I should make for this week’s blog post. I have to find out how much milk I need to add because my grandmother wrote only “add as much as it takes up” and also I have to decide the size of pretzels. I am so excited, would it be like the one in my memories?
Reproducing childhood’s taste is like a crossroad of past, present and future. While I am kneading the dough, I get flashes of memories then kitchen air will be filled up by the scent of the baking pretzels which bring me back to the present moment to this small country kitchen and house where I finally found home after so many years of searching. Then we pick some still warm pretzels and go for a walk with Áron and Beeper. While we are eating the pretzels by breaking off pieces of it we are planning the future: talking about smaller and bigger works on the house, arranging the garden and travelling and we suddenly realise that the village church in the sunset with the surrounding clouds looks like an old, oversaturated postcard.
And when we take the last bites of our pretzels I realise that I can always trust my grandmother’s recipes.
Because it was like the ones, several decades ago.

Hungarian salty pretzel
Ingredients:
300 g flour
120 g butter or pork fat
15 g fresh yeast
1 pinch of caster sugar
100 ml milk
1 egg + 1 egg for brushing
5 g salt
caraway seeds

For the salty glaze:
20 g salt
40 g flour
60 ml milk

Dissolve fresh yeast and sugar in 50 ml lukewarm milk, cover it and let it rise for a few minutes. Mix flour, butter and salt. Add the lightly beaten egg, the yeasted milk and the rest of the milk. Knead it well until it becomes a flexible dough, cover it with a piece of plastic foil which you brushed with a bit of oil before. Let it rest for 1 hour. Knead the dough once again then cut 60 g pieces of it. Form little balls first, cover them with plastic foil and work with one ball for once. Form first a sausage (1,5 cm thick) then a pretzel and lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush them with the beaten egg and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Let them rest for another 30 minutes. In the meantime preheat the oven to 200 °C and prepare the salty glaze. Mix salt, flour and milk and put aside. Bake pretzels until they start to get a colour. Take them out of the oven, sprinkle them with the salty glaze and put them back to the oven and bake them until they get golden brown.

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Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer

Judit Neubauer is a food photographer, chef and writer living in a small village in Northwestern Hungary. Her bilingual blog, Taste of Memories is about life in the Hungarian countryside. While she is bringing new life into the 90 year-old house and orchard of 18 fruit trees she cooks and bakes her family’s old recipes and tries to preserve traditions and old knowledge about how to live in rhythm and harmony with nature.

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