It’s National Pretzel Day Sunday April 26 — time to celebrate one of the most beloved twists in baked goods.
The pretzel has come a long way since its beginnings across the ocean in Europe.
The southern regions of Germany – places like Bavaria – are considered to be the home of the pretzel, where it’s often eaten at breakfast with sausage and mustard, the International Business Times reports.
Watch how pretzels are twisted at Jo Jo’s Pretzels in Goshen:
It’s believed that German monks made the first pretzel, and that they crossed the strips of dough into the now-famous shape to look like arms crossed in prayer.
The oldest pretzel in the world was found just last March, when German archaeologists found the stale knot in Regensburg, Germany, the International Business Times reports. It was believed that a baker had badly burnt the pretzel and threw it away 250 years ago.
These days, you can find a pretzel just about anywhere in the United States. Travelers are nibbling on tiny, brittle knots in airplanes thousands of feet in the air, and stores like Ben’s Soft Pretzels and JoJo’s Pretzels in Elkhart County are serving up warm, fluffy soft pretzels to eager stomachs.
- RELATED: Ben’s Soft Pretzels works to maintain small-town identity through big-time expansion, March 17, 2015
In fact, Ben’s Soft Pretzels will be getting in on the National Pretzel Day celebrations, according to a news release.
Customers will get a free jumbo soft pretzel Sunday, April 26, if they donate at least a dollar to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit which helps wounded military personnel and their families.
The franchise will also be giving one lucky fan a year’s worth of free pretzels. That’s a knot for all 365 days in a year. All you have to do to be in the running for this windfall of baked goods is to visit the Ben’s Soft Pretzels’ Facebook page and name your favorite veteran.
But if you think you’d like to celebrate the occasion by trying your own hand at twisting a knot, here are two recipes for making soft and hard pretzels.
BAVARIAN-STYLE SOFT PRETZELS
Recipe from The New York Times
- 1 tbsp. barley malt syrup or dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp. lard or softened unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp. instant yeast
- 6 cups (which comes up to about 30 ounces) of bread flour
- 1 tbsp. and ½ tsp. kosher salt
- Food-grade lye for dipping
- Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt (not to be used to substitute kosher salt)
- Stir the syrup, lard or butter, yeast, two cups or warm water and half the flour in a mixing bowl.
- Add the kosher salt and remaining flour and continue to stir the mixture until it comes together in a shaggy mass.
- Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it for eight to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and supple.
- Cut the dough into 12 pieces and let it rest for five minutes.
- Roll each piece of dough into 22-inch-long strips. Lift both ends and twist them around each other once into a round shape, and then press the ends into the sides of the circle you’ve made.
- Transfer the pieces to an ungreased baking sheet and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, and then refrigerate it for at least one hour or overnight.
- Heat up your oven to 425 degrees.
- Wearing rubber or latex gloves, make a solution of a half cup of lye and 10 cups of water. Dip the pretzel into the solution, turn it over for 10 to 15 seconds and place it back on the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle salt on the pretzel and bake them for about 15 minutes or until they’re a deep brown. Remove the pretzels from the rack and serve them warm.
HOMEMADE HARD PRETZEL STICKS
Recipe from Food Network
- 1¾ cups warm water
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 oz. (about 4½ cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 large whole egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
- Vegetable oil
- Pretzel salt
- Combine the warm water, sugar and kosher salt into a bowl or a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top.
- Let the mixture sit for five minutes or until it starts to foam.
- Add flour to the mixture and, using a dough hook attachment, mix it on low speed until it’s well combined.
- Begin mixing the dough on medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This will take about four to five minutes.
- Remove the dough from the bowl, clean it and oil it with vegetable oil.
- Return the dough to the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Then let the dough sit in a warm place for at least 50 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line four half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush it with vegetable oil.
- Place enough water in a roasting pan so it’s a third of the way up to the sides. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
- Turn the dough out onto an oiled work surface and divide it into one-ounce portions, which should make about 36 pieces.
- Roll out each piece of dough into 14- or 15-inch long sticks and place it on the sheet pans around a fourth of an inch apart.
- Cover the dough that’s not being used with a slightly damp towel so it doesn’t dry out.
- Place six to eight pretzels at a time into water for 30 seconds, then place them on a sheet pan.
- Brush the pretzels with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with pretzel salt.
- Bake the pretzels until the sticks are golden brown and hard, which is about 55 to 60 minutes.
- Transfer the sticks onto a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.