Bite-sized salzstangen nibblers just in time for Superbowl Sunday. Salt em, dip em, crisp em… any way you like.
My Dad requires very few staples: dark chocolate, Trident Spearmint, gin, and sourdough nibblers. Nibblers are pretzel bites sold in grocery stores. They are of the hard pretzel variety and help to offset the liquidy aspect of, say, beer drinking. Quite yummy.
I didn’t set out to make nibblers. I set out to make a recipe of Salzstangen from The Bread Book (one of my Mom’s). Salzstangen are breadsticks. Pictures of them online are typically of the long, thin, commercial variety – although my Mom’s recipe gives directions for a diagonally-rolled dough square that comes out looking like a straight croissant:
I asked Sawyer if he felt like baking – and so he joined me. He’s an expert ingredient adder, kneader, and dough roller. And he may well be a better baker – my breadsticks looked like drunken worms, while his where long and uniform…
At some point early on in the recipe, I decided that I would grab a pair of kitchen scissors and snip my breadsticks into little nibbler bites before poaching them. The recipe isn’t sourdough, but the idea was close enough to give it a shot.
Sawyer wanted his to come out soft and chewy and I wanted to have mine come out darker and crunchier – so we played around with different baking times. I stored the nibblers in paper bags overnight to minimize “sweating” (the coarse salt will make the crust moist if stored in plastic bags). The next day, I put my batch under a low broiler for 10 minutes and got the exact crunchiness I was aiming for. A spell later, I dropped off a bag of the nibblers to my Dad, who gave them a thumbs up review.
The recipe is a resounding success (I’m watching Sawyer across the room eating nibblers from a bowl even as I type). I’m not a Superbowl person, but if I were, I’d make a batch of Salzstangen Nibblers for the game.
My Mom’s introduction to the recipe from the book: “Salzstangen, rolled breadsticks popular in southern Germany, have a dark, bitter, shiny coating on the crust and are usually sprinkled with coarse salt, caraway seeds, or both before baking. In Germany, the breadsticks get their sheen from a wash made with lye. I’ve substituted baking soda here instead.”
- 2 scant tablespoons (or 2 ¼-ounce packages) active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water about 110 degrees
- 1½ cups warm milk about 110 degrees
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons solid vegatable shortening melted
- 5½-6½ cups unbleached flour
- 3 egg whites very stiffly beaten
- 3 tablespoons baking soda
- 2 quarts water
- 1 large egg beaten with
- 1 tablespoon cold water for egg wash
- Coarse salt or caraway seeds optional
In a large bowl, soften the yeast in the water.
Add the milk, sugar, salt, shortening, 3 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously with a dough whisk or heavy-handled spoon for 2 minutes.
Stir in the egg whites and beat until no egg white is visible.
Gradually add more of the remaining flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough forms a mass and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
Knead, adding more flour a little at a time as necessary, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until you have a smooth, elastic dough and blisters begin to develop on th surface.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven kitchen towel and let rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide it in half. Roll each piece of dough into an 18 x 30-inch rectangle. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.
Cut the dough into 6-inch squares. Starting at one corner, roll each dough square diagonally to the opposite side to form breadsticks the shape of cigars. Place the breadsticks 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, loose ends down. Cover with a towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
About 15 minutes before the end of the rising, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a skillet or dutch oven. Add the baking soda to the boiling water; turn the heat to low. Carefully slip on breadstick into the water and leave it in for just 5-10 seconds before removing it with a slotted spoon or skimmer. As they are poached, put the breadsticks on parchment-lined baking sheets, 3-inches apart.
Brush the breadsticks with egg Wash, being careful not to let it drip onto the pans. If desired, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt, caraway seeds, or both. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the breadsticks are light brown (the internal temperature should reach 190 degrees).
Immediately remove from the baking sheets and cool on a rack.