Pretzels are one of the world’s oldest snacks. These soft and chewy brown treats that are shaped like an open knot are a well-loved standard found at bars and cafes in Trentino-Alto Adige and of course all over Germany. The bretzel, usually called pretzel in English, is known for its salty goodness and often served alongside a brimming stein of cold beer.
What is a pretzel and where did it originate?
Pretzels, or bretzels, are made with just a few simple ingredients including flour, butter, yeast, water and salt. They are shaped into a large, open knot and then first boiled in water with baking soda or lye and then baked in the oven until brown. Pretzels are a symbol of Germany and well known in the German-speaking world as well as Eastern France and Northern Italy.
How do pretzels get their deep brown color?
Pretzels owe their deep brown color to a chemical reaction called the Maillard reaction. This reaction happens when they are first boiled in water that has either lye or baking soda and then baked in a hot oven. The outside, which has been treated, turns a crunchy deep golden brown, while the inside stays white, soft and chewy.
What kind of salt should I sprinkle on my pretzels?
The most frequent flavoring for soft pretzels is simply coarse salt, which is salt that has larger crystals than fine salt. If you are making pretzels from scratch, here is an explanation of different types of salt that you might want to sprinkle on top:
Pretzel salt – yes, there is a salt that is sold specifically for making pretzels! It is large-grained and doesn’t melt easily so you can still see it on the top of the pretzel after baking.
Kosher salt – a salt that is free from additives and is large grained, it is less salty than other types, so recommended if you want a little less flavor, but it melts quicker than pretzel salt so it might not be as easy to see.
Sea salt – a more expensive salt that comes directly from evaporating seawater, be sure to use the larger-grained types only as it comes fine as well.
Rock salt – this salt looks more or less like the others, but it is not recommended for making pretzels. Rock salt is less refined and has minerals that are usually removed from table salt.
The perfect aperitif snack to be enjoyed with a cold beer.
There are lots of different types of pretzels, and of course the small, hard, commercially-baked pretzels will keep in an airtight container for a very long time. However, the soft pretzels in this recipe need to be eaten within a day or two of preparation. They are of course best eaten warm from the oven!
Is it true that pretzels have Christian symbolism?
Pretzels are said to have been invented by a Christian monk as a treat for children who learned bible verses and prayers. The pretzel shape is said to represent a child whose arms are crossed in prayer, and the three “holes” are said to represent the Trinity.
What are the different pretzel toppings or dippings?
A standard salt pretzel with nothing else is certainly delicious, but if you want to make things a little more interesting there are all kinds of toppings or dips you can use. If you are in the mood for something sweet, you can sprinkle the top with cinnamon and/or white sugar, instead of salt, before baking. Another popular way to eat pretzels is by dipping them in mustard, melted cheese or chocolate.