You CAN Carry Pretzels

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Loyalist Dave

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Well, likely not the hard kind, as they seem to have been developed in 1861 to store better when being shipped overland. The first hard pretzel factory was in Lancaster, a familiar town to all you longrifle men and ladies.

Pretzels of the soft kind, entered The Colonies with German immigrants in the 18th century. So IF you wanted an authentic pretzel, I'd suggest a recipe similar to the one in this site https://www.thespruceeats.com/brezel-the-soft-pretzels-with-old-world-taste-1446685 though you may want to omit the butter IF you want something closer to the Lenten traditional pretzel.

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I love pretzels. I have a master dough that I use for pretzels, bagels, pizza, rolls, bread, and focaccia.
I use Baked baking soda (sodium carbonate) instead of lye and boil them for about 45 seconds.
I also use bread flour and brown sugar, omitting the butter.
I also sprinkle them with fine canning salt, I don't like big salt crystals.

The lye or sodium carbonate prevents mold growth and increases the shelf life of the pretzel.
Nothing like a nice chewy pretzel
 
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I always thought the hard type pretzels were a development of German monks way prior to the 1860 period. Given to the children as a way to keep them quiet during services.
 

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The Hortus Deliciarum is like a handbook of questionable firsts, standing as the first encyclopedia to be authored by a woman, Herrad of Landsberg in the 12th century, as well as holding what may be the earliest depiction of a pretzel the world has ever seen.

 

Loyalist Dave

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The lye or sodium carbonate prevents mold growth and increases the shelf life of the pretzel.
It also effects a change in the starch molecules on the surface giving you a specific crust. My daughter uses Sodium Carbonate (not to be confused with baking soda, folks) when she makes a home version of Aunt Annie's soft pretzels. So do, I am told, the Amish at the local Amish market.

always thought the hard type pretzels were a development of German monks way prior to the 1860 period. Given to the children as a way to keep them quiet during services
The pretzel itself, was sort of a biscuit, so not anywhere near hard pretzels today. I've had Maryland "beaten biscuit" correctly done without any leaven, and they taste a lot like a bland pretzel without the crunch. In fact in Lent, there would be no fat added, nor sugar, but the bakers might have used malted wheat for the flour, so proofing the yeast with a tiny bit of sugar simulates that.


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It also effects a change in the starch molecules on the surface giving you a specific crust. My daughter uses Sodium Carbonate (not to be confused with baking soda, folks) when she makes a home version of Aunt Annie's soft pretzels. So do, I am told, the Amish at the local Amish market.
It also contributes to the classic taste of a pretzel. Baking soda had a PH of 9, sodium carbonate 11 and lye 14. A lot of recipes say to use baking soda, but the PH isn't high enough and makes a poor pretzel IMO .

You can make your own sodium carbonate by placing some baking soda on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and baking in the oven at 400 f for 30-45 minutes.( Some methods give different times and temperatures.) You can confirm the conversion with a PH meter. I do this right before making the pretzels as stored the baked baking soda seems to reabsorb water and co2 quickly reverting back to sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). The difference between baking soda and "baked" baking soda (sodium carbonate) in the final product is quite noticeable.

Sodium carbonate helps create the signature browning and flavor, much better than baking soda alone but not as good as lye.

The Amish pretzels near me are very pale in color suggesting they are not alkali dipped. Their color and poor (lumpy) shape was unappealing to me so I didn't taste them. I wonder if they weren't the "biscuit" type you referred to.
The bakery is now closed.
 

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At a farmer's market north of Lancaster, PA, there is a small stand that sells "soft" pretzels. For about $6.00, they have a pretzel that weighs about 24 oz, is easily a foot across barely enough room in the loops to put a finger. Mrs. and I get one every time we are there. Back in the 1960's, my dad would get soft pretzels and slice them in half so he could use them to make sandwiches. Now bakeries make pretzel rolls the size of Kaiser rolls for sandwich bread. As a very young kid, I remember a peddler making his way through the grandstand at a fair carrying a pole with a wooden rake type end. Soft pretzels were hanging from the tines. A few years ago, I saw a painting/engraving of a similar pretzel rack in a centuries old picture.

The dough recipe for a pretzel is nearly identical to the recipe for traditional bagel dough and the bagel recipe makes some fine pretzels.

Be careful if you use lye, still available in some markets here, I had a high school job in a place that sold soft pretzels and the machine dipped the raw dough into a lye solution for about three minutes. Every Saturday morning, I was the one that filled the machine and started it up. I wore safety glasses and gloves (back then unusual) to handle the lye and fill the water mixture in the machine. If any crystals spilled, they ate holes in my shoes within a space of a half hour. Nasty stuff.
 

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At a farmer's market north of Lancaster, PA, there is a small stand that sells "soft" pretzels. For about $6.00, they have a pretzel that weighs about 24 oz, is easily a foot across barely enough room in the loops to put a finger
I wish I had the room to make pretzels that big, but my dough table isn't big enough to roll out one that long. One pretzel instead of six to a sheet pan Would be awesome. A pretzel that big would go well with a beer.
 
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A few years ago we spent a lot of time in Gettysburg Pa. there was a pretzel factory there that made the best hard pretzels, sadly they are no longer in business. but all hope is not lost we have found a brand called uncle Henrys that are very good. The country meat market we buy from carries them and also a Mennonite market in Greencastle Pa. has them. If you come across them I suggest the extra dark ones. Planning a trip to Lancaster soon soft pretzels and shoe fly pie are on the list.
 

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During the Civil War, Julius Sturgis sent pretzels to his brother, William, who was in Andersonville prison. And pretzels were among the treats sold in Philadelphia in 1864 at the Great Central Fair, which raised money “for the aid and comfort” of Northern soldiers.
 

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A few years ago we spent a lot of time in Gettysburg Pa. there was a pretzel factory there that made the best hard pretzels, sadly they are no longer in business. but all hope is not lost we have found a brand called uncle Henrys that are very good. The country meat market we buy from carries them and also a Mennonite market in Greencastle Pa. has them. If you come across them I suggest the extra dark ones. Planning a trip to Lancaster soon soft pretzels and shoe fly pie are on the list.

Just a few miles east near Hanover and along Rt 30 appears to be the snack capitol of the country. Many pretzel, and chip plants. Including a Frito plant and several connected to Snyder's. There are such snack plants all through PA Dutch country in Reading (Bachman's) and to Allentown. Hard pretzels, according to the history on the Hammonds' Pretzel web site were made in Germany and brought to central PA in the 1800's. Back in the 1950's and even into the 1960's, folks wanting a little extra cash, would go to a soft pretzel bakery and buy a trunk load of pretzels and then set up along a busy road selling the pretzels. That practice ended around 1975.

The problem pretzels as a frontier food, would seem to be (1) they require a fine flour (2) they are a yeast raised dough (3) they need to be dunked in a chemical bath to create that shiny brown crust and (4) they need to be baked.
 

Loyalist Dave

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The problem pretzels as a frontier food
Not everybody is on the "frontier" when doing living history in the flint era, eh? ;)

I should think especially the Germanic soldiers might just make pretzels when they occupied a decent sized town. Even if they weren't quite "right" like momma made back home it'd be a treat after field rations.

I'm not sure the 18th century version of pretzels were dunked in the lye solution, but on the other hand it was a liquid back in those days, from leeching water through wood ashes. IF they townspeople were making soft soap from time to time, they would've have a lye solution to dunk pretzels. There would've been ovens in a town as well, and probably fine enough flour.

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I'm not sure the 18th century version of pretzels were dunked in the lye solution, but on the other hand it was a liquid back in those days, from leeching water through wood ashes.
I don't think a wood ash dipped pretzel would be very tasty. But If you try it. please let me know.

In 1790, Nicolas Leblanc had developed the process for turning ordinary table salt into sodium carbonate. Around 1800 He then built a plant producing 320 tons of soda ash per year.
Two years later the plant was confiscated by the French revolutionary government, which refused to pay him the prize money he had earned ten years earlier for inventing it.
In 1802 Napoleon returned the plant (but not the prize) to him, but by then Leblanc could not afford to run it. He committed suicide by a gunshot to the head in 1806.
 

Loyalist Dave

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I don't think a wood ash dipped pretzel would be very tasty. But If you try it. please let me know.
:D

They ran the water through a container that held the ashes, and as it drained though the straining material, they had a lye solution. Bits of ashes in one's soap wouldn't do well for washing clothing either.

In 1790, Nicolas Leblanc had developed the process for turning ordinary table salt into sodium carbonate.
Alas that invention doesn't help those of use stuck between 1750 and 1785. ;)

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I guess the question now is, when did pretzels first get dipped in lye ?
I highly doubt they were doing it 1400 years ago.
I bet boiled then an egg wash would be nice.
 

Loyalist Dave

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I guess the question now is, when did pretzels first get dipped in lye ?
I'm going with they were trying to find an early mold inhibitor, and food ingredient laws being what they were (or not being present at all) they tried the lye bath, and it worked.

Might have been after observing lye used in Hominy production....

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I'm going with they were trying to find an early mold inhibitor, and food ingredient laws being what they were (or not being present at all) they tried the lye bath, and it worked.

Might have been after observing lye used in Hominy production....

LD
As far as I know, lye dipped breads originated in and around Germany. Germany, Swabia, Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria etc.
I suspect that like many things, it was an accidental discovery.
 

Loyalist Dave

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Seems when maize was taken back to Europe, that knowledge didn't go with it, so people were gorging themselves on the exotic new food and suffering severe malnutrition because it wasn't digestible.
That's a good point but that was mostly if not all in Italy. It's called pellagra. It's a vitamin deficiency of niacin. First noted in Spain but not endemic until it happened in Italy. It popped up hard in the American South in the late 19th century....and they knew about hominy.

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