Thought of the Week – Pretzels


What do southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria have in common? Well, actually a lot, yet above all, they are the home of pretzels which have become a true export success. Brezeln, Silserli and Laugenweckerl taste really good and therefore I am dedicating this week’s TOW to this wonderful savory treat (well, and because I just took the chance to share my wonderful recipe for pretzel rolls, buns and braids with you guys!).

What are pretzels?

Pretzels are shaped bread products (twisted knots, rolls, buns, braids, …) made from yeast dough. To create their typical golden brown color, pretzels are dipped in a lye solution and baked at high temperatures. The lye solution can be prepared with water and natron or with water and baking soda. If you are interested in the detailed chemical background, please contact your former chemistry teacher.

How did pretzels come about?

The genesis of the pretzel is not that obvious. However, almost everything I have read points out a mistake. The Bavarian version of the story is one about a mix-up: the pretzels should have been coated with sugar water but the baker used a lye solution, which was actually intended to clean the trays. The Swabians however “blame” a black cat that jumped on the baking tray, knocked it over and all the dough pieces that had been placed on it fell in a bucket full of lye solution. I really have no clue how the baker came up with the idea to take the pretzels out of the lye solution and bake them, although, as far as he knew, it had come into contact with a poisonous fluid. Well, luckily for us he did it nevertheless.

How are pretzels made?

To make pretzel you start with a savory yeast dough that needs to rise first, is brought into the desired shape secondly and then has to rises again. The pieces of dough are dipped in a lye solution and have to sit there for a few seconds. During the last rise the surface dries out which in return prevents the solution from penetrating the inner part. During the bake the pretzels grow further and the lye reacts with the heat. The finished product has a white, fine-pored texture and the significant, golden brown surface.

How to eat pretzels?

Pretzels are uncomplicated and a quick bite, which is why they are often served in beer gardens. Thanks to its special taste you can enjoy it pure or pair it with a beer, some butter, a Weißwurst (not my favorite, but I know a lot of people who love this combination) or Obatzter.

Pretzels are a great allrounder at home or when you’re out and about. So, enjoy this special treat wherever you might be!