Friday, October 3, 2014

“Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels” For "National Pretzel Month"

Who doesn’t love pretzels? Can you believe that October is "National Pretzel Month?" Pretzels come in so many varieties, sticks, loops, long, short, braids, hard, soft, thin and thick. Hard pretzels originated in the United States in 1850 at the Sturgis Bakery in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  In Europe, snack pretzels are sprinkled with salt, sesame and poppy seeds, or with cheese. In the U.S., they come in a variety of flavors and with different coatings, such as yogurt, chocolate, strawberry, cheese, mustard, nuts, sugar glazes, and also salted. Pretzels can be crumbled and used as a topping for ice cream, which eventually led to the development of an ice cream cone tasting like a pretzel.  

A pretzel is known by different names in other countries. In Germany, pretzels are called Brezel, in Polish it is known as Precel, the Norwegian and the Danish people call it Kringle, and the French, Spanish, and the Italians call it Pretzel, Bretzel, or Brezel. In Italy, the Taralli is an Italian snack food that is similar in texture to a pretzel. Taralli can either be sweet or savory. Sometimes they are glazed with sugar, may be flavored with onion, garlic, seeds, pepper, fennel, or just salt. The sweet and plain Taralli are often dunked in wine. The Taralli shapes are classically formed into small rings or ovals. They are boiled then baked, or deep fried.  

Most people agree that the pretzels were invented by monks and have a Christian background. According to history, in 610 AD, an Italian monk invented pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He called the strips of baked dough, “pretiola” (little rewards) These strips of baked dough were folded to resemble arms crossing the chest. However, there is no source cited to back up these details. Another source locates the invention in a monastery in southern France. In Germany there are stories that pretzels were the invention of their bakers. In Greece, ringed bread, derived from communion bread used in monasteries a thousand years ago, may also be related to the invention of the looped pretzel. 

Within the Catholic Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels made with a simple recipe using only flour and water could be eaten during Lent, when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter. 

In the 19th centuries, southern German and Swiss German immigrants introduced the pretzel to North America. These immigrants became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Many handmade pretzel bakeries populated the central Pennsylvania countryside, and the pretzel‘s popularity spread. In the 20th centuries, soft pretzels became extremely popular in other regions of the United States. Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York became famous for their soft pretzels. With increased popularity due to mass production, pretzels were distributed at schools, grocery stores, movie theaters, sports stadiums, arenas, and street vendors. Selling pretzels on street corners in wooden glass enclosed cases were found in New York City. 

L-R: my aunt, my mom, my son Paul,
 myself, & brother Chris

As a young child, I remember when I would go to NYC with my family especially at Christmas, and the hot soft pretzels were always a treat. We would be walking along  5th Ave, near all the famous department stores, like Macy’s and Lord & Taylor, and low and behold we would see one, a vendor selling hot soft pretzels on the corner. You could smell the baked dough and the mustard as you were getting closer to the stand that sold them. It was wrapped in waxed paper and placed in a brown paper bag. To me, the best time to eat them was in the winter when the weather was cold outside. The hot bag filled with pretzels would warm your hands. Then as we continued walking, I would pull apart a piece of the warm pretzel and leave the rest in the bag to keep warm. All the salt would be the first thing that I would lick off. The hot soft dough would just melt in your mouth and it always seemed to warm up your stomach. At that time you could get 3 pretzels for $1.00, and what would be left, was an empty bag with some salt crystals left at the bottom. What a delicious memory to have with my family.

NYC Pretzel Vendor
Today, Pennsylvania is the center of the American pretzel production for the hard crispy and the soft bread types of pretzels. Pennsylvania with its large German background produces 80% of the nation’s pretzels. In 1963 the largest pretzel of its time weighing 40 pounds and measuring 5 feet across was baked by Joseph Nacchio of the Federal Pretzel Baking Company.  In 1993 the Pretzel Museum opened in Philadelphia, operated by the Nacchio family.

In the world of foodies drink pairings are an important part of the meal. There are some perfect matches: chocolate chip cookies and milk, coffee and donuts, and beer and pretzels. You're going to need something to wash that pretzel down with, and few things besides mustard go better with a soft and chewy pretzel than a beer. Just about any beer will work with a pretzel, but to make the most out of the match you'll want to pick a beer that complements the doughy and toasty knot. So I asked my dear friend, Jeff B. to give me some insight as to what beer may be a good choice to have with your pretzel. He is a connoisseur of beer and told me that everyone has their own preference but he likes a Stout or dry stout "black beer." His choice and the most famous example is Guinness followed by Murphy's and Beamish. Thanks Jeff for your insight on pairing pretzels and beer.

My recipe this week is called “Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels” I have made these before and I usually have my family knocking on my door, for more. The soft dough is so light and the honey butter melted on the top of each pretzel reminds me that I’m back on the corner of 5th Ave, reliving my childhood all over again. Memories never tasted so good. So enjoy, whether you like the sticks, chocolate covered or the big soft ones with mustard on top, celebrate pretzels with a bag today.

Honey Butter Homemade Soft Pretzels

Total Time: 1 hr 55 minutes
Prep: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons yeast
2 cups of warm water
6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tablespoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup of honey
3 eggs beaten
Honey Butter Mix (recipe follows)
Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Honey Butter Mix
1/2 cup of melted butter
1/4 cup of honey
In a small bowl combine melted butter and honey


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine the yeast and warm water; allow to sit for 5 minutes till somewhat foamy. Add the flour, salt, sugar, honey and eggs. Mix thoroughly for about 10 minutes. Let the dough rise about 10 to 15 minutes. Divide the dough into 4-ounce portions and roll out each piece into a long rope shape. Now shape the pretzel dough and pinch the 2 (arms) to maintain them from coming apart. Place on greased cookie sheet or you can use parchment paper and let rise for 1 hour. Brush with Honey Butter Mix and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 20 minutes till light brown. Remove to cool for 5 minutes prior to eating; if you like them warm wait for just a few minutes. 

Till Next Time…..

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  1. Oh I really fancy your pretzels recipe. This is something I would love to try making one day. When I lived in Germany long time ago I always used to buy them still nice and warm from the food stalls located near the stations or on city squares. They are so delicious. I found it interesting that bretzels are called differently in different countries. I like the way you write Dottie, I always learn lots of new things in your blog!
    Enjoy your weekend! xxx

    1. Dear Alida, Thank you so much for your lovely words. I enjoy these pretzels once in a while. They really bring home many happy memories. Even in Germany they had them on the street corners near the stations, just like New York City. How interesting to know that. They are so good, I agree. They seem to hit the spot just to tide you over till you get home from the big cities. I find it fun and very interesting to learn so many things each time I do research on a food. It is like I am back in school, but no exams. (HaHa) Thanks for the encouragement on my writing. I do love it so...You are very sweet...I hope that you have an awesome weekend with your family...Dottie :)

  2. Good evening dear Dottie ,
    What a great pretzels recipe . Homemade is so much better for you now , they have started adding so many different thing to breads and cakes to make them last longer .
    You are so right , different calls pretzels by different names . hubby aunt calls them 'Bretzels' , after showing her this recipe , she asked the kids did they want to make some bretzels tomorrow and of course they said yes (giggling) .
    A great post as usual and thanks for sharing and have a blessed weekend ~~Nee~~ ;-D

    1. Good evening Nee,
      Thanks for your visit and your lovely comment. I agree homemade anything is so much better than store bought. I enjoy this pretzels very much especially warm and with mustard is my choice. I remember when I was young my mom's mother (my grandmother) she would call them Bretzels as well. Sometimes we would make them on a Saturday night when she was not busy. That was fun, besides the salt she used to add sesame seeds to the top. It seemed to give it a nice flavor. Hope your children enjoy making the "Bretzels." I am so glad that you enjoyed this post. Hope that you have a blessed weekend with your family dear friend...
      Dottie :)

  3. Dear Dottie, This is something I have never attempted. I know Michael and Tammy would both love these.
    I should give this a try. I always loved getting pretzel from the vendor when I was a child. They were warm and delicious.
    Have a beautiful weekend and enjoy.
    Blessings dear. Catherine

    1. Good afternoon Catherine, So nice of you to stop by and leave such a lovely comment, thank you! You really should try them...they really are so delicious and it brings back memories from a time gone by. You can use your imagination and even put different toppings on them. You to enjoy and have a blessed day with your family. Dottie :)

  4. Hi Dottie and Happy Pretzel Month!
    I had forgotten about prestzel Month because I usually celebrate Pretzel Day on my blog:) Good info you've gathered together for us here. PA does seem to be a popular place for pretzels but, let me tell you, they have nothing on those pretzels you speak about from the city. I remember them well.

    I too have never tried my hand at pretzels. I should though. Ah perhaps one day:)

    Thank you so much for sharing, Dottie...Have a Pretzel of a Month!!!

    1. Dear Louise, Thanks for visiting and your comment. I love pretzels especially the soft ones. I was forgetting about Pretzel Month as well, It is a good thing that I have blogs already to post for a few weeks. You would think that Pa would be into Pretzels, as Pennsylvania is the center of the American pretzel. I agree with you dear friend there is nothing like a hot pretzel from a vendor in NYC. You should try them, they are not hard and maybe Marion would like them too.. I hope that you have a blessed week....Dottie :)