Fastenwähe – Carnival Caraway Seed Pretzels of Basel
The Fastenwähe, Fastenweyen or Fastenwaje is a carnival (Fasnacht) caraway-seed pretzel sold on every bakery of Basel during Lenten (Fasten means Lenten!) and carnival period and really only around this time of year. The Basler Fasnacht is Switzerland’s biggest Carnival festival, held annually in the week following Ash Wednesday and lasts for exactly 72 hours. During this time the city is in celebration mode with deeply rooted local traditions, ranging from “Gugge music”, “Piccolo music” (a kind of sopranino flute), wonderful colored laterns, to traditional Fasnacht dishes as the “Basler Mehlsuppe” (a hearty broth made from flour and onion) and the Fastenwähe, the recipe proposed in this blog.
The Fastenwähe made it’s very first appearance way back in the year 1554 in the Swiss Rheinfelden 20 km away from Basel (Switzerland).
These rolls are very easy to prepare, they need to rise only once and your can enjoy them warm (just form the oven), cold or filled with ham, cheese or to your taste.
More about Fastenwähe (in German):
- 250 ml milk, lukewarm
- 100 g butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 500 g white flour
- 15 g fresh yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 -2 tablespoon caraway seeds (not cumin!)
- In a bowl combine milk, butter, sugar and half of the flour. Mix well.
- Add yeast, mix well again and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the flour, the salt and work for about 10 minutes and form a soft and elastic dough. Let rest for about 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 12-15 portions and form with each a 15 cm long oval roll. You can use a rolling pin or simply press and stretch with your hands.
- Flat the rolls and with the knife make 4 opposite slits into each piece; the cuts should be about 5 cm long (as shown in the photo). Place each piece on prepared tray (I needed 3 trays).
- In the meanwhile in a small bowl mix the egg yolk and the water for the topping and brush the breads with it. Top with caraway seed.
- Keep for about 2 hours in the oven (temperature off, light on) or until they double their volume. For a better rising I recommend to pot a bowl with warm water on the bottom of the oven.
- Take out of the oven (including the bowl of water) and preheat the oven at 200°C.
- Now place a fireproof bowl with hot water (to produce steam and get soft rolls) into the oven and bake the breads of the first tray for 15-20 minutes until golden. Let cool on a grade end enjoy them.