My kids generally associate soft pretzels with a trip to the mall. We had some “buy one get one” coupons one time last summer and so we indulged. Neither trips to the mall nor soft pretzels are a regular occurrence in our family. Too expensive.
But, needless to say, the memory has stuck. And since no one really got to eat his fill of said soft pretzels, the desire to eat more has always lingered.
Believe it or not, pretzels have a much more spiritual history than mere mega malls. In fact, it is said that medieval monks developed them as a way to help children learn their prayers. The pretzel shape is supposed to be reminiscent of praying hands.
And, believe it or not, pretzels have their roots in the history of Easter. Since eggs and butter were forbidden foods during Lent — and since many pretzel recipes can be made without eggs and butter, pretzels were a permissible food during that time.
Eggs, a food that one would abstain from during Lent, would be hardboiled for longer storage. And eventually it came about that children were served two hard boiled eggs nestled in the hollows of a pretzel on Easter morning. That pretzel eventually evolved into “the Easter Basket.” Pretty cool, eh?
Whether you abstain from butter and eggs — now or anytime — soft pretzels are a delicious treat. And making them at home elevates them to a super-duper-outstanding level of deliciousness. They are easy to prepare, but there are several steps involved. Consider making several batches in a row so that you can eat your fill.
Well, if you don’t have six kids, maybe one batch will suffice.
Recipe: Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup milk
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon yeast
For Soda Bath:
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- coarse salt
- melted butter & cinnamon sugar
- Note: If you don’t have a bread machine, don’t despair. Just keep scrolling to the end for traditional directions.
- In the pan of a bread machine, assemble the dough ingredients in the order recommended. Set the machine on dough. When the cycle ends, remove the dough to a lightly oiled surface. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Roll each portion into a long snake, about 18 inches long. Shape the snake into a horseshoe. Twist the sides of the horseshoe, about halfway up, around each other twice. Flip the ends over onto the U of the horseshoe. Press to seal. Continue until all the pretzels are shaped.
- Meanwhile, bring the 8 cups water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the baking soda and continue to boil. Drop the formed pretzels, one at a time into the soda bath. Boil for about 30 seconds and remove to the prepared parchment. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired.
- Once all the pretzels have been “bathed,” bake them for 9 to 10 minutes or until golden.
- If you prefer sweet pretzels, brush the baked pretzels with melted butter and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar before serving.
- If you don’t have a bread machine, you can still make these! Just follow standard procedure for traditional bread dough. Warm the milk and water, add the other ingredients, knead, and rise until doubled in bulk. Continue with the original recipe instructions.
Number of servings (yield): 12