This is a recipe for laugenecken, a laminated, leaven bread with a pretzel-like exterior and fluffy interior. They’re delicious and also really easy to make.
Once upon a time, when I used to post dispatches here more than once every few months, Lisa and I went to Berlin. It was a fun trip, and we ate well. (I also got lost running while trying to find the Olympic stadium.) On our first morning there, we went to a bakery—as we usually do whenever we travel—and I pointed at a laugenecke and fell in love with the taste and texture. (The name literally mean “lye corner” because pretzels were historically made using a lye bath, and this delicious bread is pointy.) Someone online described their laugenecke experience this way:
Oh, and I tried one of the most ingenious food marriages EVER! At the grocery store, they had samples of Laugenecke . . . and oh my goodness! It was essentially what you would get if a pretzel and a croissant got married and had a baby and it was delicious!
After we returned home I searched the Internet high and low for an English-language recipe, but I couldn’t find one. Sure, I found recipes for Laugenbrötchen (pretzel bread) and Laugenstange (pretzel stick), but they weren’t quite the same. I found a couple of recipes in German, but the Google Translate is hilariously bad at German. For example:
If then synonymous still blogger friends spontaneously the idea that you could just synonymous synonymous bake what would be, that is exactly mine.
But I read between the lines of the horrible translation of that site’s laugenecke recipe in German and decided to give it a try. It also led me to do more searching to learn about the classification of German flour (“550 flour” is all-purpose), find out what kind of yeast Trockenhefe is (instant), and see how much yeast is in a packet (somewhere between 7 and 11 grams). This kind of forensic cooking is exciting, but the proof is in the baking and eating. So let’s get on with it.
400 grams all-purpose flour
1-1/2 Tbsp plain yoghurt
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
80 mL lukewarm water
100 mL lukewarm milk
1 tsp sugar
7 grams instant yeast
2 Tbsp oil
Coarse salt for topping
3 Tbsp butter
1 L water
50 grams baking soda
1) Add the yeast and sugar to the lukewarm milk and set aside for about 10 minutes. It will become foamy as the yeast activates.
2) Meanwhile, combine the salt and flour in a bowl and make a hole in the middle for the liquid ingredients. When the yeast has become foamy, beat the egg and combine it with the lukewarm water and milk/yeast/sugar mixture.
3) Start kneading the dough by hand or in a stand mixer using a dough hook on low speed. Just before the dough comes together, add the yoghurt and oil. Continue kneading/mixing until it forms a soft, smooth dough. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.
4) Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and cut it into six equal parts. Melt the butter. Roll the dough into six discs approximately 1/8 inch thick. Try to make them the same size and shape, since they will be stacked later to form layers. Spread approximately 1/5 of the butter onto the layer and place the next layer on top of it. Continue alternating dough layers and butter. Do not butter the top of the last layer. (All of the butter should be on the inside.)
5) Cut the dough into 8 pieces (like a cake). Place the pieces on a baking tray, cover with a clean cloth, and let them rise 45 minutes.
6) Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Dissolve the baking soda in the water and bring it to a rolling boil. Be aware that the water will get very foamy in the next step, so use a deep pot.
7) In batches of two or three, dip the pieces in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds. Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper, top with coarse salt, and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!