Happy Pretzel Day

Today is National Soft Pretzel Day in America. You may be wondering how the pretzel became so esteemed. It so happens that Pennsylvania is the source of 80% of the pretzels produced in the United States. So in 2003, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell declared April 26 National Pretzel Day. Return to The History of Pretzels

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

The soft pretzel and it’s European origins that trace back to the 5th century. There are a couple stories that lay claim to the pretzel. The earliest story says,

 It was around 610 BCE when legend has it that, in a secluded monastery, in either Northern Italy or Southern France lived a monk with a twisted sense of humor. As a reward to his students for learning their prayers, this monk handed out baked pieces of leftover bread twisted together to resemble crossed arms, which was a traditional prayer pose. He called them “pretiola,” which is Latin for “little rewards.” What’s more, the three-holed “pretiola,” claimed the monk, represented the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Religious History of Pretzels | Food & Wine  

Since the item became so popular in Germany, another story claims it was a French monk who created the early pretzels who may have been a captive in Germany. While any one of these stories might have some modicum of merit, what we do know for certain is that the earliest recorded evidence of pretzels appeared in the crest of German bakers’ guilds in 1111. Return to The History of Pretzels 

I taught my high school students about pretzels during Lent. I believe that the word “pretzel” is not a corruption of the Latin word “pretiola,” but rather comes from the Old German “brezitella” from the Latin for “arm” (bracchiatus). Rolling out the dough to make folded arms in the shape of a penitent monk created a time for prayer and reflection. The true origins of Germany’s pretzels remain a mystery, though they do seem to have evolved from a ring-shaped Christian fasting dish that existed in Roman times. We’ve Been Eating Pretzels All Wrong: A History of the German Bread 

The holes in the pretzel shape are also a sign of good luck since they resemble the Holy Trinity, similar to a shamrock’s status. The “good luck” connotation carried the pretzel to other holidays, including New Year’s Day, when in Germany children hung pretzels around their necks; pretzels hung on Christmas trees in Austria in the 16th century; and parents hid little pretzels on Easter for children to find, an early version of an Easter egg hunt. In Switzerland, the pretzel shape was used as a marriage knot, and couples would each pull on a side of the pretzel on their wedding day. The larger half brought prosperity to the marriage—it was kind of like a doughy wishbone tradition Return to The History of Pretzels

When we were in Lucerne, we ate soft pretzel sandwiches from an outdoor cafe. I tried my hand at recreating them for the next Super Bowl party we hosted. They were a fun twist on our usual fare.

Today, American’s eat far more hard, cracker-like pretzels than the soft ones. This happened because the Pennsylvania Germans learned that the soft pretzels became stale quickly and were difficult to ship to other areas.  In 1861, Julius Sturgis created the first commercial pretzel bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania. It’s believed that his factory was the first to develop hard pretzels. Return to The History of Pretzels Even though more hard pretzels are sold in the USA, most prefer the soft pretzels and that is noticeable but the many soft pretzel vendors we have like Pretzel Wetzel and Auntie Anne’s. Until the 1930’s, pretzels were still manufactured by hand but in 1935, the Reading Pretzel Machinery Company introduced a machine that could create 245 pretzels a minute.https://www.histohttps://www.history.com/news/the-pretzel-a-twisted-historyry.com/news/the-pretzel-a-twisted-history  It is no wonder hard pretzels are available on every flight.

It is easy to make your own soft pretzel if you do not need as many as the professionals.

  • Buy some ready-made dough, like Rhodes. If you buy loaves, cut it into one or two inch lengths.Or you can buy the packages of rolls that are already a nice pretzel size.

Roll the thawed dough into ‘snakes’ (like my students like to call them) about 12-18 inches long.

Fold one end of your rope over the middle, leaving a wide loop gap.

Repeat with the other side as it will cross your first arm of your pretzel.

  • Brush egg white on it for sheen.
  • Sprinkle coarse salt on top.
  • Cook according to bread dough directions. 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.
  • These make great dinner rolls and a fun activity for children.

Have a Happy Pretzel Day!

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