Pretzel Basket for the Beergarden

From yeast dough, you can braid almost anything, and for the beergarden, you always need a basket.
This gift basket for a birthday in a beergarden couldn't truly be used for the transport of the contained food, but at least it provides a pretty setting! 
I also learned a lot about the theory of basket weaving...

The dough is exactly the same as the one described in the Pretzel dough post, it's very easy to work with.

Ingredients for 1 Basket (1,6 kg dough):
1 kg flour
2 P. dry yeast(14 g)
500 ml water
100 g butter
1 TSP salt

500 ml 3-5% sodium hydroxide

coarse salt to sprinkle 
rubber gloves

ovenproof bowl, 25 cm in diameter 
thick wire for the handle, e.g., from a wire coat hanger

Energy: 4143 kcal per Basket

Put flour, yeast, water and salt into the bowl of the kitchen machine and let it knead. While it's kneading, soften the butter a bit in the microwave and add it to the mix. 
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise for about 30 minutes.

Line two baking trays with baking paper. Set the bowl on one of the trays, open side facing down. Knead through the dough, then cut off one quarter, set it aside, and cut the remaining dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece to a 50 cm long strand. From these 16 strands, the body of the basket is weaved.

My Spanish dessert cookbook contains nicely drawn instructions how to weave a little Easter Basket, which I used as a reference. However, when I tried to get the grid weaved flatly on the kitchen counter onto the bowl, I failed miserably. Gravity sucks and the dough strands on the side just got longer and longer, until half the grid was hanging below the bowl! So, I threw it all together again, kneaded it through and started again with the strands. This time, I decided to weave the grid directly on the bowl. On the steep sides of the bowl, gravity still annoys you, but in the end, the result looked much better than before...

My basket weaving innovation was to use the strands hanging out at the "edges" of the basket to braid around the corner, such that the edges became more stable. Once you've managed that, you just need to cut the remaining strands and knead them together again. Cut the dough in two parts, roll each part to a long strand and twist the two strands to a thin cordon. That works best if you twist one end of the cordon, the other end will follow slowly. Drape the cordon around the basket and press it in place. 

Brush the finished basket with the sodium hydroxide, maybe sprinkle it with salt and bake for 20-25 minutes at 170C with convection. Voilà!

While the basket body is baking, you can form the handle. Take the dough quarter that you had set aside earlier, cut it in two and roll the pieces to strands of about 70 cm length. Then entwine the two strands to form a cordon around the wire, leaving the wire ends sticking out. As before, you can twist one end of the cordon and the other end will follow.  
Dip the handle into the sodium hydroxide and also bake it 20-25 minutes at 170°C with convection. Carefully free the basket body from the bowl - the baked lye is very sticky!

Set the basket onto a plate, stabilize it with tinfoil paper on the inside, and stick the wire ends of the handle into the basket body. Don't lift the basket at the handle! ;-)
Fill the basket to taste and we're off to the Beergarden!

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