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 toCulinaria Gemanyfor 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).
These salty snacks date back to Roman times, and yes, they’ll make you thirsty – but it’s nothing a Bavarian beer won’t fix.