Laugenbrezeln have been around since about 610 A.D. when a baker in a monastery in northern Italy twisted leftover strips of bread dough into the shape of a person’s arms crossed in prayer.
The first pretzels were baked as a soft, squishy bread, like the soft pretzels of today. Some say they were originally called “bracellae,” the Latin term for “little arms,” from which Germans later derived the word “bretzel.”
By the 17th century, the interlocking loops of the pretzel had come to symbolize undying love as well. Pretzel legend has it that in 1614 in Switzerland, royal couples used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies (similar to splitting a wishbone) to seal the bond of matrimony, and that this custom may be the origin of the phrase “tying the knot.” In Germany—the country and people most associated with the pretzel throughout history—17th-century children wore pretzel necklaces on New Year’s to symbolize good luck and prosperity for the coming year.
Traditionally made in vats of boiling water filled with “kitchen lye,” this updated recipe replaces the lie with baking soda and salt without losing any of its unique flavor.
- 2 Baking sheets, lightly oiled or lined with parchment paper
- Stand Mixer with dough hook attachment
- large saucepan
- 1 ⅓ cup Warm water, 115°F (45°C)
- 3 cups All-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp Active dried yeast
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 2 tbsp Unsalted butter
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- ½ cup Baking soda
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- 2 tsp Sugar
- 8 cups Water
- 2 tbsp Unsalted butter, melted
- 1 large Egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, sugar, and kosher salt. Sprinkle yeast on top and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. The mixture will bubble and foam. Add flour and butter and begin to mix at low speed with the dough hook attachment. Once combined, increase speed to medium and knead for about 5 minutes. The dough should be smooth and pulling away from the sides. If it seems too wet, knead in a tbsp of flour. Remove dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place. After 50-55 minutes, dough should be doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 450°F (220°F). Bring 8 cups water to a boil and add baking soda. Turn out dough onto a lightly oiled work surface. Cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 18-inch rope with the end slightly tapered. Form ropes into a "U" shape and then cross the ends over each other and press ends into the bottom of the "U" to form it into the shape of a pretzel. Place them on a parchment lined baking pan. Repeat for remaining dough balls.
- One at a time, place a pretzel into the boiling water for 20 seconds on each side. Remove to the grease baking pan with a large flat spatula. Repeat until finished.
- Brush the tops of each pretzel with the egg yolk-water wash. Generously sprinkle coarse salt over each pretzel.Bake until the become a dark golden brown color, 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes. To serve warm with butter, the traditional German way, or with mustard or a cheese dip.
- If your kitchen temperature is hotter than 78 degrees or below 72 degrees, put in in your oven with the internal lights turned on before starting the recipe.