Blue sky, light green leaves – and a golden glowing portion of light. Typically, the spring tricolour is celebrated in Munich in the city’s beer gardens, which open after the winter break. At present, bottled beer is the order of the day, preferably with a Bavarian snack on the balcony. In this series, Munich chef Sven Christ shows how to conjure up Munich specialities yourself in a normal kitchen and with readily available ingredients. This time: a giant homemade pretzel with Obazda.
One baked product that has become such an integral part of Munich's culture is the pretzel. It is the symbol for Munich par excellence. Even as children, Munich residents are handed one as soon as they can hold it. The shape of the pretzel is supposed to represent a praying monk (you should know that some monks cross their arms in front of their chest for prayer).
"Sharing is caring" is a slogan from the social media era, and a concept warmly embraced in Munich's beer garden, where big pretzels are sold, and which you can hardly manage on your own.
Its second characteristic feature, the chestnut brown colour, is due to a historically documented accident: A baker's apprentice accidentally dropped a piece of bread into a bucket of caustic soda and baked it anyway. That's how this Munich pastry came to be, which has successfully made its way into the world beyond the city limits, but which is usually eaten warm and with mustard (which, by the way, is rather improper).
"Sharing is caring" is a slogan from the social media era, and a concept warmly embraced in Munich's beer garden, where big pretzels are sold, and which you can hardly manage on your own. But there is almost always someone from the group who orders a pretzel, and anyone can break off a piece of it – a thought that, after weeks of social distancing, now frequently triggers a mixture of feelings ranging from horror to longing.
Those who find the idea of sharing a giant pretzel too risky, even among their own household members, can of course make do with small pretzels as an exception. The perfect accompaniment for this is always an Obazda (spicy cheese delicacy), a relatively unknown speciality from Bavaria, which has not yet been able to establish itself internationally because of its name and rather acquired taste.
I will never forget the face of my Italian girlfriend, who thought she was in possession of a freshly bought “salmon cream”. Obazda is a creamy mass made of different kinds of cheese, and it comes in many different variations. What unites all the varieties are the basic taste and its consistency. In any case, it’s an ideal “dip” to go with pretzels and beer, a Bavarian guacamole so to speak – that’s probably the best way to describe it.
The Obazde is made from onion, chopped camembert or soft- and cream cheese, with herbs and a shot of beer for creaminess. From here on, creativity takes centre stage, leaving you to add wild garlic if the season calls for it, for example; the great and the good of Munich also like a hint of truffle, while the older echelons of society tend to like adding a sprinkle of paprika powder, although I suspect that this variation is a culinary relic of the seventies.
To bake your own pretzels, you first have to go to the pharmacy and buy a food-grade lye solution; sometimes this is available in undiluted form, but you have to be careful when processing it, and be sure to wear glasses and gloves. Or better still, buy the diluted version with three percent to one litre of water.