The Connection Between the Church and Pretzels

Bavarian Pretzels

In the Medieval Period, the Catholic Church imposed stricter rules regarding fasting and abstinence during Lent than modern times. Meat, dairy, and eggs were prohibited during Lent. Grains, yeast, and water were acceptable. 

Legend has it that monks baked folded strips of bread dough in the basement of a monastery, to resemble the crossed arms of praying children to reward them for learning their prayers. This is one theory of the birth of the pretzel. 

By the 1600s, the interlocking pattern of the pretzel became the symbol of undying love. It is said that royal Swiss couples used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies. This sealed the bond of matrimony, and might have stemmed from the phrase “tying the knot”, since pretzels were shaped to resemble that form. 

It would be unfair to tell you all about this baked good without sharing a recipe.

Pretzel Dough

Recipe for Bavarian Soft Pretzels – Makes 8 

  • 3.5 oz active dry yeast (half pack)
  • 10 oz lukewarm water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp softened unsalted butter
  • 4 quarts boiling water
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp coarse salt (or substitute Kosher salt)
  1. Mix yeast and sugar in lukewarm water and add to flour
  2. Mix salt in softened butter and knead into dough then cut into 8 pieces
  3. Roll each piece out to 25 – 30 inches long
  4. Twist into a pretzel form, cover with a clean dish cloth and let rise for 12 minutes
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  6. Bring water to a boil then add baking soda
  7. After rising, boil pretzel dough for 30 seconds and remove with slotted spoon
  8. Place on a cookie sheet/baking pan lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat
  9. Top the pretzels with course salt and let rest for 20 minutes
  10. Bake about 20 minutes, remove, and place of cooling rack
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