I have a knack for traditions, but traditions with a twist... or traditions adapted to our own family life (my husband: Canadian without being stereotypical --except for that flannel shirt he wore when we met-- and me: a German, who doesn't fit the picture many have of Germany: sausages, Oktoberfest, mountains, soccer, fast cars, beer, tall ... all of which are far from my heart or lived reality). Neither of us grew up in families with strong traditions, but traditions they were. If I create a list of those I remember frist they all revolve around a baked good (the soft bread in the shape of a man with a pipe for St. Martin's Day --a lantern festival in November--, donuts without a whole aka Berliners for New Year's Eve, braided challah bread for Easter Sunday, a 1.5m long and 7kg heavy raisin bread that is delivered to new parents, usually on a ladder by men wearing suits, top hats and wooden clogs, just to name a few).
So often we find ourselves in this myriad of traditions that we brushed up against in our journey through life. And we are still in the process of trial and error when it comes to translating and adapting these --or at least a select few– into our own life as a little family. This processs has certainly led to some odd ones (e.g. for Christmas there's now a Santa Claus and a baby Jesus, --the latter looking like an angel-- that both come at Christmas time, birthday presents opened in the morning as well as in the evening, and there's not just Halloween but also Karneval when kids dress in costumes in February and watch floats from which candy is thrown).
But apart from these and other patchwork-style traditions we have created a few --alas tender ones-- ourselves. And much like my memories of traditions having to do with baking these are usually related to food. With varying degrees of success we introduced "kids cook day", have and use cookie cutters for all sorts of occasions, and there is Lias' Gnocchi Show (still in its first season, so too early to call its reach and longer term success), there's Raclette for the winter months and always, always black forest cake for my husband's birthday (nothing else stacks up in his books after we spend time in the Black Forest. A visit that ended with the annual Almabtrieb -- a concerted cattle drive in the autumn to bring the cattle down from the alpine regions to their barns in the valley– including cattle decorated elaborately and variations of Black Forest Cake as far a the eye can see.
Another recent tradition --and one I am determined to keep alive-- is fresh bread-rolls on Saturday mornings. When were are in Germany one of us typically gets up on Saturday and bikes to the local bakery to buy fresh bread rolls. There's no second best substitute here so for the past months I have been trying a different recipe bread roll recipe each weekend --often with help from one of the boys--. But pretzels buns have been our favourite so far. So I am translating and sharing the one that works magic for us here (cause pretzels and pretzel buns are not nearly as hard as you may think!).
But before I share here's some bread roll/bread trivia:
The bread register of the German Institute for Bread (yes, there is such a thing) lists more than 3,200 officially recognized types of bread in the country. And German bread culture was officially added by UNESCO to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2015. To underline the importances of bakes loafs big or small, a key German term is Broterwerb refereeing to ones work, which literally translates "gaining one's bread." So it's no surprise that Germans have many words for bread rolls and the most generic in is "Brötchen", derived from the German word for bread – "Brot", is the most commonly used name for our bread rolls in Germany. So use Brötchen in northern and central Germany, but when you get to Berlin swiftly switch Schrippe. And then make sure to order your bread using “Semmel” in Bavaria, parts of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. This term comes from the Latin word "simila" which means "finely ground wheat flour". And no, that's not it yet: Now it gets complicated! In southwest Germany, there are a number of similar terms in circulation for bread rolls- namely Weck, Weckle, Weckli and Weckerl. And... in Switzerland use…“Mutschli”. Don't ask me why....
But now, finally:
SATURDAY MORNING PRETZEL BUNS
400 g light spelled flour or wheat flour
1 tbsp of dry yeast
2-3 tbsp of sugar, maple syrup or other natural sweetener
1 tsp of salt
250 ml lukewarm oat milk or other milk (water also works in a pinch)
20 g soft vegan butter
1.5 liters of water
50 g baking soda
Some corse salt for sprinkling on top
- Combine yeast, water, and sugar in the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let stand for 5 minutes (until foamy).
- While yeast is proofing…melt butter. Mix in milk and set aside.
- Once yeast is proofed, add milk/butter to yeast mixture and mix on low speed with dough hook until just combined.
- Add salt and flour and mix with dough hook until flour is fully incorporated.
- Knead in a mixer until the dough forms a firm ball, you may need to add more flour but you want your dough a little tacky but not too sticky.
- Place the dough ball in the bowl, and cover with a damp towel in a warm place to let rise for one hour or until doubled in size (I usually do this the night before so that we can prepare and bake the bread rolls right when we get up).
- Preheat oven to 220 ° C top / bottom heat.
- Bring 1.5 liters of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, slowly add the baking soda bit by bit (Be careful not to add too much at once or you will have a baking soda/water explosion)!
- At this point I weigh the dough and decide how big I want each bread roll to be (usually around 70-80g). Weigh out each bread roll forming the dough into the shape you want (no need to let them rise here!).
- Drop several balls into the boiling baking soda water. Boil for about 60 seconds on each side, turning them once to cover both sides. Drain the excess water from the dough and place on an oiled or parchment-covered baking sheet.
- Immediately sprinkle with coarse sea salt over and if you like use a knife to cut a small "X" on the top of the bread.
- Bake for 22-25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once.