This morning I made a sweet yeasted pretzel, a German Neujahrsbrezel. While waiting for the dough to rise, I checked my e-mails. Every single one from friends or family in Germany wished me “Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr”, literally a good slide into the New Year. It occurred to me that I have said that all my life myself yet I have no idea where the expression originates.
One of the possible etymologic explanations is that it came from “git rosh”, the good wishes for the Jewish New Year, Rosh ha-shana, literally the head of the year. In German, that became “Guter Rutsch”.
I like this explanation the best because it fits the menorah that’s sitting in our kitchen right now with nine candles for tonight, the last night of Hanukkah. Just like the latkes I make for Hanukkah every year I relish the happy coexistence of traditions, identities, and languages in our German-Jewish-American patchwork family.
Baking a Neujahrsbrezel is a first for me. In previous years I have made other German New Year’s treats like Marzipan Piglets, Silesian Poppyseed Bread Pudding, and Silesian Poppy Seed Roll (the recipe is in my book).The New Year’s Pretzel seemed a befitting wrap-up for this year. 2016 was like the year of the bread for me, the year in which I transitioned into a new stage of bread-baking. Because of the difference in flours, baking German in the United States remains challenging, as I wrote in a blog post this summer. But I am on a bread roll, so stay tuned for more recipes.Many people view 2016 as a bad year for mankind, and I agree. But when the world seems a mess and the future frightening and uncertain, I will continue to bake bread if I can. Pulling a beautiful loaf out of the oven catapults me into a happy bubble, and, for a brief moment, all is good.
Sweet Yeasted New Year’s Pretzel (Neujahrsbrezel)
1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
7 tablespoons (100 ml) lukewarm milk
2½ cups (12½ ounces/350 g) all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoons nutmeg
Finely grated zest of ½ organic lemon
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons (45 g) sour cream
3½ tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, melted
1 egg yolk for brushing, beaten
2. In the bowl of the kitchen machine combine the flour, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and sugar. In a small bowl lightly beat the egg with the sour cream and melted butter. Add the yeast and egg mixture to the flour and knead at low speed for 3 minutes. Lightly oil the bowl and turn the dough over. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
3. Divide the dough into three equal parts and roll each piece into a tapered rope about 33 inches (83 cm) long. Pinch the ropes together at one end and braid them tightly. Pinch the ends together and shape into a large pretzel. Tuck the ends underneath and place the pretzel on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees F). Brush the pretzel with egg yolk.
5. Bake on the medium rack for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. It tastes best within a few hours.
Makes 1 large pretzel