Friday, April 06, 2007

Pretzels in Lent

Good Friday - Pretzel Tradition

The last few years we changed our traditional hot cross buns in for home made pretzels. This year was no exception, our daughter loving to bake up a great big batch of these to observe smaller meals this day.

The pretzel has a deep spiritual meaning for Lent. In fact, it was the ancient Christian Lenten bread as far back as the fourth century. In the old Roman Empire, the faithful kept a very strict fast all through Lent: no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream, and no meat. They made small breads of water, flour, and salt, to remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer. They shaped these breads in the form of crossed arms for in those days they crossed their arms over the breast while praying. Therefore they called the breads "little arms" (bracellae). From this Latin word, the Germanic people later coined the term "pretzel".

Thus the pretzel is the most appropriate food symbol in Lent. It still shows the form of arms crossed in prayer, reminding us that Lent is a time of prayer. It consists only of water and flour, thus proclaiming Lent as a time of fasting.

That many people eat pretzels today all through the year that they take them together with beer in taverns and restaurants, is only an accidental habit. In many places of Europe, pretzels are served only from Ash Wednesday to Easter, thus keeping the ancient symbolism alive.

Pretzel praying hands ready to consume

Baked Pretzels (using a bread maker)

1 cup beer/water (we use water)
1 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. Sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
¾ tsp. yeast

Glaze; 1 lightly beaten egg, 1 tbsp. water, coarse salt and/or sesame seeds.


  • Measure all ingredients into the bread maker pan. Insert into the oven chamber, twisting to secure. Close lid.
  • Select dough/pasta setting, press to begin.
  • When the cycle is complete, remove the dough from the machine to a lightly floured surface.
  • If necessary, knead in a bit of flour. Roll into a large rectangle.
  • Cut into 18 strips.
  • Gently pull each strip into a rope. Shape into pretzels.
  • Do NOT allow the dough to rise!
  • Combine the egg, water and brush onto pretzels when placed onto backing sheets. Sprinkle with salt and sesame seeds.
  • Bake @ 350 degree for 18-20 minutes or until done.

Yield; Makes 18 pretzels. (We always double the recipe and still there is not enough as they are a solid hit around here)