Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Soft Bavarian Pretzels Baked at Saint John's for the First Time

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.
   There are numerous accounts on the origin of the looped pretzels, as well as the origin of the name; most agree that they have Christian backgrounds and were invented by monks. According to The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, in 610 AD " Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers. He calls the strips of baked dough, folded to resemble arms crossing the chest, 'pretiola' ("little rewards")". However, no source is cited to back up these details. Another source locates the invention in a monastery in southern France.

Emblem of the Baker's Guild in Germany
   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. Pretzels were hidden on Easter morning just as eggs are hidden today, and are particularly associated with Lent, fasting, and prayers before Easter. The classic pretzel's three-hole shape begins to take form.


Plans are underway to have a pretzel making evening with members of the CSB/SJU German Club.