Today, and every April 26th, the nation celebrates the absolute best on-the-go snack, the soft pretzel. This twisted treat is sold on practically every street corner of Manhattan, Philadelphia, and Chicago, is seen by many as the greatest food ever invented while drinking, and really, who goes to a baseball game and doesn’t buy a pretzel? Whether you enjoy savory or sweet, salty or buttery, stuffed with meats, cheeses, or vegetables there’s a pretzel with your name on it.
The origins of the pretzel aren’t necessarily clear but the general consensus is that the pretzel is centuries old with different variations and names throughout Europe. The first bakers of the pretzel were most likely Christian monks around 610 AD due to the theory that the pretzel resembles hands folded in prayer. Another theory of the pretzel’s origin is based on the bread being similar in design and shape of the pre-Christian symbol, the sun cross. Most commonly, the pretzel has become widely associated with Germany’s Bavaria region and Oktoberfest celebrations where visitors enjoy pretzels as large as their heads along with their beer steins full of fine Bavarian brew. In Bavaria, located in southern Germany, the brezel has long been associated with German bakers and were incorporated into the crest of baking guilds as early as the twelfth century.
In the United States, Pennsylvania is the epicenter of pretzel consumption and manufacturing due to the large number of southern German immigrants that settled there in the nineteenth century. Southern Pennsylvania is considered to be the birth place of the $500 million pretzel industry where bakers produce an astonishing 80 percent of the country’s pretzels. Philadelphia residents are so dedicated to pretzels they even have a museum honoring their favorite snack. Those who live in Philly eat twelve times more pretzels than the average American! The average American on average eats a pound and half of soft pretzels per year.
Pretzel chain, Pretzelmaker, is giving away pretzels all day long to celebrate National Soft Pretzel Day. If you live in the NYC area, stop by their Herald Square or Port Authority location to grab your free pretzel. Otherwise, check the Pretzelmaker website for a location near you.
Want to try your hand at twisting up your own pretzel? Watch Celida Maldonado’s pretzel making video here to see how!
(Recipe by Heather Bortnem of Commerce Restaurant)
2 1/4c All Purpose Flour
1 tspn Salt
2 tspn Dry Yeast
1 tspn Butter, room temperature
1 gallon Boiling Water
12 tspn Baking Soda
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. Let rest, covered for 10 minutes. Cut into ten equal pieces and shape into pretzels. Add the baking soda to the boiling water very slowly. Drop each pretzel into the boiling water for no more than 45 seconds. Remove and drain the pretzel, season with salt. When all pretzels are blanched, place them on a hot cooking tray and bake them for 10 minutes.