There are two sorts of pretzel (called brezeln in German). One is a hard and salty biscuit that helps sharpen the thirst for a long cool drink of beer, the other is a larger and softer salted bread sold especially in America, having been brought there by German immigrants in the 19th century.
The name refers to the shape, which is very ancient made by early Christians as a Lenten bread, the crossed arms symbolizing the Cross. The derivation of the name is from the Latin bracellae, ‘little arms’. Not only breads, but also sweet biscuits, are made to this pattern in Germany and Austria.
The dough is like a bagel in that it is poached before baking, giving it a chewy texture.
© 2005 Tom Jaine. All rights reserved.