Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Pretzel

There are special foods for Lent. Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday, for example. (An interesting recipe book is A Continual Feast, by Evelyn Birge Vitz, published by Ignatius Press.)

A food that symbolizes prayer and fasting is the pretzel (from the Latin word, bracellæ, "arms".) It is a traditional Lenten bread of very ancient origin. Early Christians made the bread from flour, salt and water only, shaping it to represent the folded arms in prayer, just as they are made to this day. 
The German tribes who invaded Rome called the bracellæ "brezel'" or "prezel". Pretzels are traditionally eaten throughout Lent, and in some places are especially associated with Saint Joseph's Day [March 19] which usually falls within Lent. 
A recipe for soft pretzels follows:

The pretzel represents the shape of the penitent's crossed arms, and was a traditional Lenten food in central European towns.This recipe is for a chewy soft pretzel, like those hot pretzel vendors sell.
Combine in a mixing bowl:
1 cup warm water
1 package (1 1/2 T) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar

Add and beat at least 3 minutes:
1 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 Tbsp soft butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Stir in 1 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour and knead until the dough loses its stickiness.
Let the dough rise in a covered greased bowl until it is doubled in bulk (this is called "proofing" the dough). Punch down and divide it into 12 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope and form it into a pretzel shape. Place the pretzels on a greased baking sheet and let them rise until almost doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 475°F.

In a large non aluminum kettle, prepare a boiling solution of
4 cups water
5 tsp baking soda

With a slotted spoon, carefully lower the pretzels into the water and boil about 1 minute or until they float to the top. Return them to the greased sheet. Sprinkle them with coarse salt. (Sea salt or Kosher salt.) Bake the pretzels until they are nicely browned, about 10-12 minutes. Pretzels are best when eaten while still warm, but they may be stored in an air tight container for up to a week, or frozen. (Makes twelve 6-inch pretzels)

1 comment:

Tracy said...

Wonderful!! I'll have to give this a try, we are huge pretzel fans and always have to get a warm pretzel when visiting the mall:-)

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