When two of my greatest foods combine into one, it’s nirvana.
It’s been no secret of mine that I love bread—all kinds of bread. And when it comes to snacks, I’ll pass on the potato chips and head for the pretzel snacks—all kinds, all shapes.
I love pretzels as much as I love bread.
So, when soft pretzel stands began opening up at the malls decades ago, they really got my attention. I’d almost make an excuse to go shopping, just to enjoy one of those beautiful twisted treats.
I’d always been told that pretzels originated in Europe, which is generally true, but deciphering whether Italian Monks (in 600 AD, with their iconic shape of “folded arms” reminiscent of the posture of prayer back then), the Swiss (enter locking arms of lovers), the Germans, the Ottomans, or the Austrians created them, all of whom have unique histories with this food, is as much conjecture as fact.
Nowadays, most would agree that the popularization of pretzels, both hard and soft, are attributed to the Germans, and it’s their Oktoberfest that showcases these unique treats at this time of the year.
Few Augusts ago, I had the opportunity to stop into Munich, Germany,
Oktoberfest’s main stage, and while wandering in and out of shops and their famous Beer Gardens, I stopped to purchased one these famous pretzels for 3 Euros (about $3.50 U.S.).
Unlike small bag pretzels or even the hand-size soft pretzels you see at the
mall, the theater, or sporting events, the German soft pretzel is HUGE! It’s
often nearly a foot in diameter! It’s not a treat; it’s a MEAL!
While it tasted great, I must confess that because the braid is SO thick, and because 95% of a pretzel’s flavor is in its exterior brown crust, you’re often eating just plain old white bread.
Having said that, just like Oktoberfest’s HUGE, traditional, half-gallon size beer mugs, huge pretzels fit in just perfectly.
When it comes to beer, pretzels and, Oktoberfest, it’s “Go BIG or go home!”
If you’d like to try your hand at making some of these famous pretzels, it’s not hard to do, and it doesn’t take a lot of fancy ingredients or equipment. In fact, they are so easy to make that you and your children could easily turn it into a weekend snack project.
Here’s how they’re made.
Bavarian Soft Pretzels
This recipe makes about 6 Bavarian Pretzels, each about 6 inches in diameter.
1 1/2 lbs. Nino’s FRESH Artisan Pizza Dough (or Frozen Bread Dough, Any Brand)
3/4 cup Baking Soda
2 Quarts Water
2 TBSP Coarse Salt (or Sea Salt)
- Purchase fresh pizza dough from Nino’s, or thaw frozen bread dough in the refrigerator overnight or until completely soft and pliable.
- Place the water in a non-reactive saucepan or metal casserole dish, stir in the baking soda until it dissolves, and then place the solution over medium-low heat until it simmers.
- Remove bread dough from the refrigerator and portion into 6 equal pieces of approximately 4 ounces each.
- Roll out each portion of dough into a 16-inch long stick. Repeat for the remaining pieces.
- Twist the dough into a traditional pretzel shape.
- Place the pretzels in the gently simmering baking soda water, and poach on both sides for approximately 1 minute.
- Remove the pretzels with a slotted spatula, and place on a non-stick baking pan (approximately 2 inches apart from one another). You may also want to spray this pan lightly with a non-stick vegetable spray.
- While the dough is still moist and a bit sticky, sprinkle evenly with the salt, so that it will stick to the dough (without dissolving).
- Pre-heat oven to 375 F.
- Bake for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until pretzels are medium brown and baked through.
- Serve plain or with your favorite mustard.