Warm, salty and chewy, or tasty and crunchy! We all have our favorite variety or flavor, but they can all be lumped into one family… pretzels! Pretzel is a type of baked pastry, that we often see shaped into a knot. It can be classified into 2 kinds: the traditional soft pretzels or the accidental hard pretzel.
The history of pretzels is quite a colorful one, with many versions and claims. But the most known story about how the pretzels were invented dates way back to 610 AD. An Italian monk created these strips of baked dough, and shaped them to resemble arms crossing the chest, and gave it as a reward to catechism students. These were said to be called pretiola, which can be translated to little rewards.
The southern German and Swiss German immigrants, or more known as the Pennsylvania Dutch were credited to have brought pretzels to America in the late 18th century. There is also an anecdote that told of how hard pretzels were created. An apprentice in a bakery in Pennsylvania accidentally snoozed on the job and overbaked his pretzels – making them crunchy, instead of soft and chewy. The master baker took a bite, and actually loved it.
The United States is said to be one of the leading countries in pretzel consumption and production and Pennsylvania is home to 80% of pretzel production!
Pretzel and Hard Pretzel Trivia
- The pretzels are known to have three holes, and there are different stories as to why! One says these three holes signify the Holy Trinity, another says it was a symbol of human sacrifice to the Celtic goddess, Sirona.
- Other accounts also tell of stories that pretzels are symbols of luck and prosperity and even love, as couples in Switzerland used these as an emblem of love.
- Pretzels without salt sprinkled on top are called baldies.
- According to the Guinness World Records, the largest pretzel was made in El Salvador in 2015. It was 8.93 meters long and 4.06 meters wide and weighed a whopping 783.81 kilograms.
- April 26 is declared as the National Pretzel Day in the United States.
- Before an automatic pretzel twisting machine was made in 1933, all the twisting was done by hand. It was said that the top speed of twisting by pretzel makers was 40 pretzels per minute.
- A certain pretzel brand made a study and found out that almost 65 percent of consumers first eat the curves of the soft pretzel and save the knot for last. 28 percent of consumers also prefer having cheese toppings, while 17 percent go for mustard or chocolate. Only 13 percent like their soft pretzels plain and 2 percent like to dip or add as toppings some sweet or savory flavors and items like cinnamon, icing, peanut butter, or… marinara sauce!
Pretzel and Hard Pretzel Buying Guide
It is very easy to satisfy one’s pretzel cravings as pretzel bakeries and concession stands are abound everywhere. There are also plenty of options for those who will be going for store-bought pretzels, and even pre-packed frozen pretzels that you can cook or reheat anytime. You can grab them plain, or salted, with sweet or savory seasonings, toppings or fillings. Dips are also available for your purchase.
Pretzel and Hard Pretzel Production & Farming in Texas
Big pretzel brands, have made its way to Texas and established their branches. Local bakeries also offer their own take on this tasty treat. There’s no better pretzel experience than having them freshly baked, warm from the oven!
Preservatives, Additives, and Chemicals
Plain pretzels are pretty simple, with just flour, leavening agents or yeast, and shortening. Some type of sugar, sucrose or corn syrup might be added, and of course, salt. While the ingredients seem basic, caution has been issued. While it is a healthier snack option than junk food, pretzels can be high in salt and are made of simple carbs which are empty calories and can be a cause of increased blood sugar. Warnings of using refined wheat flour is also given as excessive consumption of items with this type of refined grains can lead to obesity heart disease and diabetes, which is why it is recommended to consume unsalted and whole-grain pretzels.
The preservatives and additives become a concern when we add toppings, dips, or fillings to the pretzel – think of peanut butter, chocolate or caramel dips, candy coatings, and more. So it is recommended to eat pretzels in moderation.
Freshly made pretzels are usually served in these grease-resistant kraft paper sleeves or cartons. It makes buying and eating pretzels convenient on-the-go. Hard pretzels are sold in resealable kraft paper or plastic ziploc stand up pouches.
Enjoying Pretzels and Hard Pretzels
Pretzels, either soft or hard, are often consumed as a healthier snack alternative. With kiosks and concession stands everywhere, it makes pretzels a great on-the-go snack. Hard pretzels are also often served as side dish with beer in restaurants and breweries. Hard pretzels can also be added to trail or snack mixes or dunk them in any dip.
While freshly baked soft pretzels are best consumed immediately, leftover pretzels must be cooled completely and then wrapped individually in plastic wrap or a sealed container. It can be kept at room temperature for up to two days. Or be stored in the freezer for up to about two weeks.
Homemade pretzel recipe
The Food Network’s Alton Brown shares his version of homemade soft pretzels!
- 1 ½ cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 oz (or approximately 4 ½ cups) all purpose flour
- 2 oz melted unsalted butter
- Vegetable oi
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp water.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the water, sugar and kosher salt. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to foam.
- Add the flour and butter then mix on low speed using a dough hook. Change to medium speed and then knead until dough is smooth, or about 4 to 5 minutes. Check if the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl.
- Clean the bowl and grease it using vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for about 50 to 55 minutes in a warm place, until the dough doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper and brush with vegetable oil.
- In a deep saucepan or roasting pan, bring to a boil 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil.
- On a slightly oiled work surface, put the dough and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope then form a pretzel knot. Place the pretzels into the prepared sheet pans.
- Place the pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds, one by one then return them to the sheet pan.
- Brush the top of each pretzel with the yolk and water mixture then sprinkle with pretzel salt.
- Bake until golden brown, or approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before serving.