143 3rd Avenue East
Someone once asked me if I knew of a place that sold authentic German style pretzels. At the time I didn’t know of any place in town…and not being an aficionado myself, I asked around. A colleague of German descent told me about an relatively unremarkable bakery in an industrial zone just off the South Main district in Vancouver. They serve, he told me, the closest thing to a German pretzel that you can get in Vancouver.
Indeed they look interesting. These pretzels have what looks like a dark caramelized crust.
The pretzel-making process is very similar to making bagels: after a rising the dough, raw bagel dough is first boiled in water sweetened with honey or maltose for about a minute prior to baking. The sugars from the sweet solution caramelize and give bagels their crunchy-chewy outer skin.
The pretzel, however, gets its colour from a lye water bath. The chemistry is unclear to me…the starches and proteins of the outer surface of the dough are somehow changed by this alkaline solution so that it bakes to a deep mahogany brown. The results should be crackling crunchy, but not sweet like the a bagel’s crust.
The pretzels today were not as crunchy as ones I had previously purchased a couple of months back. We have been having some moist and foggy weather of late…perhaps this moist air contributed to this chewiness.
While their pretzels seem to be their specialty, Swiss Bakery have some other worthy items for sale. They also sell decent crusty hearth breads (their Cranberry and Walnut Bread has become a family favorite – excellent toasted, buttered and served with a sharp cheddar)….in case you aren’t a pretzel aficionado.