When you sink your teeth into the warm soft dough of a German-style pretzel, coated with noticeable salt crystals, it is hard to believe that the twisted dough was fashioned for a penitential purpose. In fact, the Vatican library actually holds a manuscript (code 3867), describing and illustrating none other than a pretzel!
In Catholic tradition, a penitent crosses their arms over their chest to show that they are abstaining. In this vein, an individual approaching the priest for reception of Communion, crosses their arms over their chest to indicate that they are abstaining from reception.
Tradition also holds that a young Italian monk was the first to fashion the pretzel out of water, flour, and salt. This was done as an appropriate Lenten food, which also packed a spiritual reminder. The breads were called bracellae in Latin, meaning “little arms.” When looking at a pretzel from the bottom up, you can see the folded arms. This gesture reminded partakers of the breads that they should remain aware of the purpose of their penance, in accord with Jesus’ forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert.
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 8 tablespoons softened butter
- 2 1/2 cups sprouted wheat flour (One Degree Organic)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
Warm the milk in a saucepan, stirring in the brown sugar until dissolved into the milk.
Sprinkle the yeast into the warm milk mixture and stir. Allow the yeast to sit for 5-10 minutes.
Stir in the butter until fully melted.
In a separate bowl, mix the sprouted wheat flour, baking soda, and salt together. Mix into the wet ingredients, forming a sticky dough.
Knead on a lightly floured surface about 5 minutes. Shape in a ball, place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.
Allow the bowl to sit in a warm spot such as the microwave or toaster oven for about an hour. I like to set a cup of boiling hot water next to the dough bowl. The warm moisture helps the dough to rise.
*Sprouted wheat flour does not usually rise as much as white flour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Tear off a handful of the dough and begin rolling, forming an evenly thick rope.
Lay the dough rope before you, forming a smile.
Fold the right side in toward your left, and then the left side in toward your right.
Finally, twist the center pieces together, and lay them down again on top of the outer pretzel.
Place the pretzels on the parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush warm water or melted butter on the tops of the pretzels.
Sprinkle the coarse sea on the wet pretzel surfaces.
Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Get out your monk brewed dunkel beer and spicy mustard!