We rang in the new year with a new tradition: the Neujahrsbrezel!
It's common in Germany to consume Neujahrsbrezel for luck on the first day of the year. I have known of this tradition for years, but I've never actually eaten Neujahrsbrezel. Markus, on the other hand, will happily expound upon the joys of the Neujahrsbrezel baked by his uncle, Walter, who owns his own bakery in Germany. After nudging Markus many a time (I'm talking years here, people) to ask Walter to share the recipe, I went closer to the source and got (almost) instant results (Thank you, Sven!). The recipe was emailed to me in English the evening of New Year's Eve, and I immediately got down to business. My first attempt had to be aborted, as the volume of the ingredients was way too much for my equipment. The second attempt with halved ingredients and guestimated proportions (I use dry yeast not fresh, and who knows how different my flour is from his) was an abject failure. The dough was more like batter and was completely unworkable (this is meant to be kneaded and braided). Walter's recipe was unlike other recipes I'd found online in some key ways, and I wasn't sure what to do...so, I did the most obvious thing at 10pm on New Year's Eve after two failed baking attempts: I had a temper tantrum, and then I went to bed.
I awoke on New Year's Day eager to try again, this time combining my own baking experience of (vaguely) similar goods with the prized recipe I had in my inbox. Result? The batter was fully workable. It even smelled good as dough. Markus stuck a spoon in for a taste and proceeded to scrape the bowl clean after I'd dumped the bulk out for kneading. It braided. It went into a pretzel shape. I was on my way...but would the flavor be right? I didn't just want good neujahrsbrezel. I wanted Walter's neujahrsbrezel. Only Markus's taste test would tell. And...
He declared it "97% Walter." I missed 3% for density (kitchen too cool for dough to rise much at all). I can totally live with that. We have a new tradition! Neujahrsbrezel will be eaten every New Year's Day from here on out! The recipe will also be called into service for Easter rings. If Markus has his way, I may call that recipe into service for any other excuse we can think of (definitely on his birthday morning), because he loves it that much. Thank you, Sven and Walter, for getting 2010 off to such a great start!
Wishing you all a happy new year!