Lent Around the World (3) – Pretzels and Prayer
Easter (April 8, 2012) is coming very soon.
This week from March 26 to March 31 we will look into different Lenten Practices Around the World. Today we will learn about Pretzels and Prayer.
|“Pretzel & Prayer”
photo source: internet/unknown
Do pretzels really have anything to do with Lent?
Source: Catholic Education Resource Center
The pretzel indeed has its origins as an official food of Lent. However, much of the information available is based on tradition that has been handed down through the ages. Nevertheless, the Vatican library actually has a manuscript illustrating one of the earliest pictures and descriptions of the pretzel (Manuscript Code no. 3867).
In the early Church, the Lenten abstinence and fasting laws were more strict than what the faithful practice today. Many areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish. For example, Pope St. Gregory (d. 604), writing to St. Augustine of Canterbury, issued the following rule: “We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs.” Second, the general rule was for a person to have one meal a day, in the evening or at three o’clock in the afternoon, and smaller snacks to maintain strength. So a need arose for a very simple food which would fulfill the abstinence and fasting laws.
|photo source: Wikipedia
An illustration from the 12th century Hortus deliciarum from Alsace may be the earliest depiction of a pretzel,
shown at a banquet with Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus
‘Perhaps this was around Lent?’
According to pretzel maker Snyder’s of Hanover, a young monk in the early 600s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. To remind his brother monks that Lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms, mimicking the then popular prayer position of folding one’s arms over each other on the chest. The bread was then baked as a soft bread, just like the big soft pretzels one can find today. (To be fair, some traditions date the story to even the 300s.)
Because these breads were shaped into the form of crossed arms, they were called bracellae, the Latin word for “little arms.” From this word, the Germans derived the word bretzel which has since mutated to the familiar word pretzel.
Another possibility for the origins of the word pretzel is that the young monk gave these breads to children as a reward when they could recite their prayers. The Latin word pretiola means “little reward,” from which pretzel could also be reasonably derived.
Apparently, this simple Lenten food became very popular. Pretzels were enjoyed by all people. They became a symbol of good luck, long life and prosperity. Interestingly, they were also a common food given to the poor and hungry. Not only were pretzels easy to give to someone in need, but also they were both a substantial food to satisfy the hunger and a spiritual reminder of God knowing a person’s needs and answering our prayers.
Another interesting story involving pretzels arises in the late 1500s, when the Ottoman Moslem Turks were besieging the city of Vienna, Austria. The Turks could not break the city’s defenses so they began to tunnel below ground. The monks in the basement of the monastery were baking pretzels and heard the sound of digging. They alerted the guard and saved the city.
The soft pretzels eventually evolved into hard baked pretzels. Another story is that a young apprentice baker dozed-off while tending to the oven where the pretzels were baking. The oven fire began to die out, he awoke, and then stoked up the oven. In the end, he over-baked the pretzels. At first the master baker was upset, but soon discovered that the hard pretzels were also delicious. These hard pretzels were less perishable than the soft, and thereby easy to have available to give to the poor and hungry.
Here we find another “fun” tradition of our faith, just like Easter eggs or hot cross buns. Actually, a good Lenten family activity would be to make pretzels, explaining to the children their significance.
Let’s learn the art of making Pretzels:
Soft Pretzel Recipe by Laura Vitale
Makes 1 Dozen
1 ½ cups of Water at 110 degrees
1 Tbsp of Sugar
1 ½ tsp of Salt
1 package of Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp of melted Butter
4 ½ to 5 cups of All Purpose Flour
6 cups of Water
½ cup of Baking Soda
Egg Wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water)
Kosher Salt for topping
1)In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, add the water sugar and salt, stir to mix and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes or until the yeast begins to foam.
2)Add the flour and butter, turn the mixer to low and mix until everything is combined. Turn the speed up to medium and mix for about 5 to 7 minutes or until you have a smooth dough.
3) Brush the bottom and sides of a bowl with some vegetable oil and put the dough in the oiled bowl. Cover and let it rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour.
4)Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, lay 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush some vegetable oil on the parchment paper.
5)Add the water and baking soda to a roasting pan, set the roasting pan over a burner, turn the heat on to medium and let the water come to a rolling boil. Meanwhile form the pretzels.
6) Once the dough has risen, cut it into 12 equal pieces, roll each piece into a rope and make a U shape, then press the ends of the rope at the bottom of the U shape and pinch the ends. Place your shaped pretzels onto the oiled parchment paper lined baking sheets.
7)Carefully place the pretzels into the boiling water for 30 seconds one at a time, remove from the boiling water using a flat spatula and put them back on the oiled parchment paper lined baking sheets. Continue to cook all of them and then brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle each one with a little kosher salt.
8)Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until deeply golden brown.
Wanna know more about Pretzels?
|The Discovery/Science Channel’s “How It’s Made” Pretzels episode