24th
Oct
2013

Posted in Kafevend Blog

We've considered many types of biscuit and cake that the British typically enjoy with a cuppa for their elevenses, but in the spirit of diversity it's time for the blog to look at snacks enjoyed elsewhere too.

Pretzels are a snack food with a long history. Like many foods with a dominant presence in the US food industry, the pretzel had its birth in Europe. There are many stories that claim to explain its true beginnings, all of them no doubt apocryphal. One tells of an Italian monk around 600AD, who needed a way to bribe his students to learn their catechism. Rolling left over bread dough into long sausages, he then twisted them into a shape that represented hands crossed over the chest in prayer and named them pretiola, Latin for a little reward. As I remember my first year junior school teacher promising a prize to whoever learnt their tables first, this is a story which sounds very plausible!

However the pretzel began, it certainly gathered momentum and gained much popularity in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. The pretzel shape is often hung as a sign outside bakeries there still. While our experience of pretzels in the UK is usually confined to hard pretzels found on the crisps aisle of the local supermarket, pretzels are traditionally soft and bread like, with a very short shelf life. While hard pretzels are now machine produced, the soft variety continue to be made by hand; the most experienced bakers can twist a pretzel in a deft and rapid movement. Prior to baking, the pretzel is dipped in a solution of water and sodium hydroxide to give it its shiny finish. Salt is also sprinkled over at this stage, or in the case of sweet pretzels, sugar glaze and cinnamon are common additions.

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