About the only thing baking soda has in common with the real thing is the sodium.
Roland Murten AG - echt. gut. - Pretzels
The History of the Pretzel
The Pretzel is far more than just a popular snack; its story is part of European cultural history. Initially something to eat with supper, the pretzel’s popularity spread throughout Europe during the Middle Ages, where it was eaten with the evening meal during Lent in medieval religious communities. It later became popular in both sweet and savoury form in many walks of life, enjoyed at various times as an everyday biscuit or one traditionally eaten at special occasions. This is probably why the oldest use of the pretzel as an accompaniment to the evening meal gradually disappeared.
Fact and Fiction – legends surrounding the distinctive shape of the Pretzel
The fact that there are so many stories about the origin of the Pretzel is surely a reflection of its special popularity, for no other biscuit is the subject of so many legends.
What is certain is that the Pretzel is shaped to resemble folded arms so it is no wonder that one particular story has persisted to the present day. It concerns a monk who, in 610, was inspired by the arms of his brother monks folded in prayer to work strips of left-over dough into the shape of folded arms.
However, a much better known story is as follows: in 1477 a court baker was said to have baked such a poor batch of dough that he was thrown into gaol. His was an offence punishable by public execution, but this baker was given the chance to save his neck. If he could bake a loaf “through which the sun could shine three times” within 3 days, he would be spared. In this precarious situation, the baker formed what is now technically termed “Gebildbrot” (shaped bread): he shaped the dough by hand and, by crossing the ends of a piece of dough, he obtained three openings – and escaped with his life!
Even the coating of lye on the Pretzel arose quite by chance: the baker’s cat, sleeping in front of the warm oven, jumped up and knocked the pretzels into a pan of hot lye solution which had actually been prepared to season other dishes. There was no more time to prepare a new batch of dough, so the batch covered with lye had to be baked. At first only the baker was amazed by the result, but later....
Or, there is the story told by a royal messenger. While breakfasting in a coffee house, he noticed that the Pretzels there tasted quite different to the usual sugary “Lenten Pretzels”. On this particular day the baker had accidentally glazed his pretzels with a sodium lye used to clean the pans instead of with sugar water. And, thanks to this mistake, the salty lye pretzel was born...
Salt pretzel snacks
Salt pretzel snacks are a special type of pastry, usually small, made by dipping the strips of dough in a lye of sodium or sodium hydroxide solution. Thanks to this pre-treatment before baking, lye pastry has a characteristic shiny brown surface. The taste of this lye biscuit, usually made from wheat flour, is sometimes described as “soapy”. Lye dough is typically formed into pretzels, rolls, horns, hearts and sticks as well as the usually mechanically produced salt sticks and salt pretzels.