Did you know that the twists in pretzels are meant to look like arms crossed in prayer? See the resemblance? Twins! According to Folklore, pretzels were created by a monk around 610 in Italy. According to The History of Science and Technology, the monk baked strips of dough that he folded into a shape resembling a child crossing its arms in prayer. He would give these treats, which he called “pretiolas” or “little rewards,” to children who had memorized their prayers. Unfortunately- and not surprisingly- there is no concrete documented evidence from the 600s to confirm this story due to the early timeline, but it sounds mysterious and who are we do doubt?
Over the ocean and across time, the European favorite made its way over to the US with French and German immigrants, and the Pennsylvania Dutch soft pretzel was born. Today, the crunchy (soft in this case), salty, shiny brown wonder remains one of the worlds most delicious and highly demanded fat free snack foods—no respectable bash is ever without them 🙂
BEST Soft Pretzel Recipe
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Combine water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to foam. Add flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove dough from the bowl, clean bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.