The pretzel revolution has begun! Will you join or resist? When you mess around with a humble pretzel, does it enhance the pretzel or destroy it? At what point is it no longer a pretzel? Does shape define a pretzel? Does it have to be twisted? Do the ingredients have to remain simple and pure? The jury is out!
The supposed origin of the pretzel is quite plausible but not easy to prove. Apparently they come from medieval Europe where Italian monks baked them as a reward for school children. The folded shape is fashioned to resemble arms folded in prayer. The popularity of the pretzel spread across Europe taking on different significances. In Switzerland in 1600, they were used in wedding ceremonies to represent the matrimonial bond or as we prefer to say “tying the knot”. The Pilgrims reportedly brought them on the Mayflower as an accompaniment to their beer!
All of that is ancient history. When we think of pretzels, we think of America, we think of street food and Superbowl snacks, not Italian monks and weddings! America is known as a “melting pot” and so many of their foods were imported by people looking for a better life in the USA. These baked treats were brought by German immigrants and became popular especially as a bar snack in the bars that were often run by German immigrants.
Of course the way we treat our food changes over time. Pretzels not only changed texture over time but also more shapes were introduced such as the straight pretzel which is much easier to produce. The snack is no longer just an accompaniment to beer but seems to be eaten at every occasion.
The huge variety of pretzels is quite staggering. The basic choice is between soft and hard, both are made of bread dough, boiled and then baked. Soft is the traditional kind that the monks made and can be savoury or sweet. The harder kind was reportedly invented by accident by a baker’s apprentice who fell asleep on the job and over-baked the pretzels he was making. They became popular not just because of their satisfying crunch but also because they stayed fresher for longer.
Recently companies have been taking liberties with pretzel baking, many would say to good effect. Not only can you buy a multitude of different, mostly savoury flavors but you can also buy them dipped in different varieties of chocolate and even some sort of cheese cake coating!
Traditional pretzel makers like Dream Pretzels are now really thinking outside the box when it comes to developing the ultimate pretzel. The pressel is a flat baked pretzel and has gained popularity especially in Israel. They also saw the need for tasty, healthy snack food for active people. They created the protein pretzel made out of red lentils, white beans and wheat.
The pretzel revolution is in full swing, are you embracing the changes and sampling the abundant goodness offered or will you forever remain a pretzel puritan?