It was interesting to learn that there is actual documentation describing the pretzel in a manuscript held by the Vatican Library. It was made during times of Lent when it is a time of reflection and pray and a period when you had to refain from eating meat or animal products. The pretzel was basically a bread which Italian monks in the 600s had made to remind everyone of this special time of pray and the shape of the pretzel was to symbolise the crossing of the arms in pray positon. They made them to give out to the faithful and some were also given to children for reciting their prays. And for this they were originally named bracelle, which is Latin for "little arms" and was also know as a pretiola, meaning "little reward" . Eventually the pretzel became very popular and evolved from a soft pretzel to a hard pretzel made more popularly by the Germans, who came to name them bretzel which somehow became the pretzel we know today. Interesting???!!! ... and today just so happens to be The Most Holy Trinity.
So here's my take on the pretzel adapted by a recipe by Christa Rose. I made a few adjustments and baked half of them like a bagel by boiling them first and the other just left to bake. Both were equally soft and buttery and I'll be adding different toppings when I make them again.
1 1/2 cup warm water
4 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
5 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup sea salt
1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water
1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp of sugar in the warm water. Set it aside until it is foamy, about 10 mins.
2. Using a large mixing bowl, add the plain flour, sugar, salt. Pour the yeast mixture and oil into the flour and combine. If it is a bit dry just add some more water and then knead it on a flour surface until is becomes a smooth dough. It should take about 8-10 mins and then place it in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and place it in a warm area. Leave the dough to rise until it has doubled, about an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C.
4. When the dough has risen, remove it and punch out the air. Knead it again and divide it into 12 parts. Roll out the each piece into a rope about 40 cm long and twist it into a pretzel shape. This bit might be a bit tricky but I find if you hold both ends in a U shape and just twist it and lay it down it becomes easier and faster to make.
5. Place each pretzel on a baking tray with a greased piece of baking paper. Leave them to rise for about 15 mins. Brush them with a bit of the egg wash and sprinkle with the sea salt. For this recipe I experimented with baking half the batch by boiling it in a pot of hot water, just like a bagel and then brushed it with the egg wash and the other I baked normally. I didn't find any difference between the two methods as they were equally yummy!