Fall is a big cookbook season, and this year’s new releases are a very strong bunch. We’ve already seen Small Victories by Julia Turshen, Victuals by Ronni Lundy, and this week we welcome a sneak preview from . Meike’s food combines the vibrant colors and flavors of her German home as well as her Maltese home-away-from-home. Her Pretzel Buns from the book are perfect examples. They are based on a German recipe, but use Maltese salt. As a bonus recipe, Meike has included a recipe for Obatzda, a Bavarian Camembert spread which you can use to fill these pretzel buns for a savory treat. See another recipe by Meike in our archives here. —
Photography by | Portrait of Meike by Luke Engerer
These buns are soft and spongy inside, with a thin brown crust that’s sprinkled with coarse sea salt. I love to use the salt harvested by the Cini family at the Xwejni Salt Pans in Gozo. The secret to these buns is giving them a quick bath in a boiling alkaline solution before popping them in the oven — this is what gives them their distinctive flavor and color. I use baking soda to give the water a high pH level. The mixture isn’t as strong as the lye used in professional bakeries, but it’s safer, and still creates that irresistible pretzel look and taste.
German Pretzel Buns
Makes 10 Pretzel Buns
— 3¾ cups 1 tablespoon (500 g) flour (preferably white spelt or unbleached wheat)
— 1 (¼-ounce / 7-g) envelope fast-acting yeast
— 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
— 1¼ cups (300 ml) water, lukewarm
— 3 tablespoons (40 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
— 3 tablespoons baking soda, for the alkaline solution
— Coarse sea salt
Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the water and butter — the mixture should be lukewarm. Add to the flour mixture and mix with the dough hooks of an electric mixer for a few minutes or until well combined. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Transfer the dough to a work surface and continue kneading and punching it down with your hands for a few minutes until you have a smooth and elastic ball of dough. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place, or preferably in a 100°F (35°C) warm oven, for 60 minutes or until doubled in size.
When the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, take it out of the bowl, and knead for about 30 seconds. Divide the dough into 10 equal (roughly 3-ounce / 85-g) portions. Dust your hands with flour, lay a portion of dough on the palm of one hand, and with the other hand forming a dome over the dough, roll it for about 10 seconds until its top is round and firm. This process creates surface tension and prevents the buns from becoming flat. Continue with the remaining dough then cover with a tea towel, and let rise in a warm place for about 20 minutes or until puffy.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large pot, wide enough to fit 2 buns at once, bring 4¼ cups (1 l) of water and the baking soda to a boil. Watch the pot; the baking soda-water mixture will foam up. With a slotted ladle or spoon, slip two buns gently into the boiling water and cook for 30 seconds, turn them over, and cook for another 30 seconds. The buns don’t need to be completely covered with the solution, but mind that they don’t stick to the bottom. Transfer the buns to the lined baking sheets, score a cross on the buns, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cook the remaining buns in the same manner then bake, 1 sheet at a time, for about 16 minutes or until golden brown. Enjoy warm with unsalted butter.
Obatzda – Bavarian Camembert Dip
Fills about 4 sandwiches
For the Obatzda
— 4 ounces / 110g young camembert
— 3 ounces / 80g cream cheese
— 1 tablespoon heavy cream
— 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds, ground with a mortar and pestle
— 1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika, more to taste
— a pinch of ground cayenne pepper
— fine sea salt
— ground pepper
For the sandwich topping: thinly sliced red onion, garden cress or watercress, ground dried chile peppers, caraway seeds (optional)
For the Obatzda, purée the camembert, cream cheese, heavy cream, and spices in a blender or food processor until smooth; season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional sweet paprika. Spread the Obatzda on the bottom halves of the pretzel buns, sprinkle with red onion, cress, chili, and caraway seeds, and close the buns. Enjoy!
About Meike: Meike Peters is the Berlin-based writer and photographer behind the popular food blog , which she debuted in 2013. Her site has been featured on Food52, The Huffington Post, and Saveur. She was named one of Yahoo Food’s Instagrammers of 2015. You can find Meike on Instagram and on Twitter .