There are many varieties of twisted pretzels found across the globe, but it’s Germany’s Laugenbrezel, the hand-span-sized yeast-risen soft bread with a salt-crystal glaze that tops our list.
We’ve turned to Culinaria Gemany for recounting the history of the pretzel (known as a brezel in German, or brezen in Bavarian). According to the book, it dates back to the Roman conquerors of ancient Germania who introduced fine-wheat flour to the region from Egypt.
Originally the Romans shaped the bread into a ring; the twisted version is believed to have come about in the 12th century. It was shortly after this time that the pretzel also came to be an emblem for bakers – it forms part of the German bakers’ guild logo that’s still used today.
Other pretzel-lovers credit Christian monks with the invention of the bread’s unique shape, suggesting the three interlocking segments represent the concept of the holy trinity. Certainly pretzels were traditionally a treat reserved for religious feast days and festivals: there are different recipes, for example, for New Year pretzels (Neujahrsbrezel) and Palm Sunday pretzels (Palmbrezel).
The Laugenbrezel gets its brown glazed crust from being blanched in a salty solution before it’s baked. According to Culinaria, this typically Bavarian salt glaze originated in 1839 when baker Anton Pfannenbrenner mistakenly brushed the dough with a lye solution meant for cleaning. Legend has it that he baked them anyway, creating a chemical reaction which resulted in the golden glazed, salty pretzel we know today.
For this recipe, we’ve opted for a solution made using bicarbonate of soda instead of lye and added a good pinch of salt to the dough to give the bread its signature look and taste.
A scattering of coarse salt flakes and some thirst-quenching Bavarian lager are the only accompaniments required. It’s the kind of snack that would find a very warm reception at any of the impending football finals parties (that is, if you need another excuse to get baking).