"Lent is a period of fasting, self-denial and prayer, in imitation of our Lord's fasting, forty days and forty nights, and in preparation for the feast of Easter...
A traditional means of reminding the family that it is the holy season of Lent is the Lenten foods which are served only this time of the year. Thus parents and children realize, even at their meals, that prayer and penance should be practiced during these days.
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." (from Catholic Culture)
I have tried a few different recipes and have found this one to be the easiest to work with and the tastiest.
Here is my step-by-step tutorial based on the recipe by Jeannie Yee at all-recipes.
1. Gather ingredients.
- 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/8 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup bread flour
- 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast, brown sugar and salt in 1 1/2 cups warm water. Stir in flour (this time I used 4 cups of all-purpose flour and they still turned out great).
3. Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. In stand mixer, this took about 2 minutes on setting 2.
4. Place in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the surface. Cover, and let rise for one hour.
5. After dough has risen, cut into 12 pieces.
6. Roll each piece into a 3 foot rope, pencil thin or thinner. After the initial roll, let the dough sit a moment, it is then easier to work with and will roll and stretch more smoothly.
8. Place on greased cookie sheet or a parchment-lined sheet and let rise for another 15-20 minutes.
9. Bake at Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. I took mine out a bit too early this time.
10. Then prepare dipping sauces. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter on one plate and then make plates for other favorite toppings-- salt, cinnamon sugar,etc.
11. Dip cooked pretzel in butter and then topping.
Delicious! Now if this is to be used for the traditional fast, the dipping in butter and toppings should be, of course, omitted. But we use the pretzels more to talk about the history of the church's fasting and use the pretzels as a call to prayer. This blog give more instructions on how to do this.
One note, if you like a really crusty outer layer on your pretzel, all-recipes includes a step of dipping pretzels in baking soda/water mixture before baking. This works well, but we've found it unnecessary.
Let me know if you try it out!!!