April 13


The pretzel - picture pastry, landmark and Lenten food

By Frank

April 13, 2023

Oktoberfest without a pretzel?

That would be like Christmas without the Stollen ! Along with a cold beer, the popular Oktoberfest pastry makes its big appearance again. Even beyond the white sausage equator, the pretzel is one of the classics in the displays of well-stocked guild bakeries, all year round.

But where did the curved pastry actually come from and how did it become popular ?

AHA! cool...

History of the Pretzel

The history of the pretzel, also called "the" pretzel in a few regions, is more than 1000 years old. The first known graphic representations in the form of a Last Supper scene are in lectionaries in the Benedictine monastery of Sankt Peter in Salzburg .

More likely than any myth about the origin of the pretzel is that its current form evolved over the centuries . The origins are said to lie in the ring bread , which was already used for cultic acts in ancient Rome. As early as the 2nd century, early Christians adopted the ring-shaped form as the Eucharist bread for communion .

The original name of the pretzel refers to the Latin " brachiatellium ", which roughly translates to " little arms ". In the Christian faith, the pretzel symbolizes two arms crossed in prayer. This interpretation explains why the pretzel as a " sacred pastry" has long been attributed special blessings and healing powers .

The pretzel has been the symbol of bakers since the 14th century.

"Story" about the pretzels

The monk's crossed arms

In earlier times it was customary to fold one's arms when praying and to lay one's hands on one's shoulders . This is how the pretzel was born. The name was also created against this Christian background. The Latin word "bracchium" means "arm". Translated into Old High German, “ precita” or “brezin ” was derived from it. This is where the Bavarian name pretzels or pretzels came from, as the delicious pastries are otherwise called.

The emergence of the pretzel according to the Swabian legend

The Swabians also have a story about the origin of the pretzel. According to this legend, a baker named Frieder from Urnach owes his life to the fact that he invented the pretzel. The baker fell out of favor with Count Eberhard and was sentenced to death . The Count gave the baker one last chance to save his life: if he managed to invent bread in three days through which the sun would shine three times , his life should be spared.

Two days later, the baker hadn't thought of anything. The baker's eyes fell on his wife, who watched him work with folded arms . He tried to recreate the shape of his wife's arms. The result was the shape of the pretzel . But then the cat got to the baking tray and the pretzel fell into the tub . Since Frieder didn't have any more time, he put the dough pieces in the oven like this. The pretzels came out. The Count was so enthusiastic: he liked them and the sun shone through three times. So the baker was allowed to stay alive.

The "true story" of the first pretzel from Bavaria

This Swabian story is quite nice. But now you will learn the true story of the pretzels: the first pretzel was an accident of the baker Anton Nepomuk Pfannenbrenner . He was responsible for breakfast in the royal coffee house from the purveyor to the court, Johann Eilles. In February 1839, however, he made a fatal mistake. He usually glazed his pretzel with sugar water . Without realizing it, he reached into the lye. This was ready for cleaning the sheets . But the result was convincing. And so the envoy Wilhelm Eugen von Ursingen was the first person who was allowed to taste a pretzel .

The pretzel a "picture pastry"

The pretzel belongs to the family of the so-called Gebildbrote (picture pastries) , a type of pastry that is shaped freely by hand (such as the plait). To this day, the pretzel has remained an artisanal product . This may be due to the fact that skilled bakers use a specific throwing technique to devour the arms.

  • Shaping : Shaping pretzels requires a great deal of skill and experience. A skilled pretzel maker can create the perfect shape with even arms and a slim waist that is both aesthetically pleasing and functional.
  • The texture: A perfect pretzel should be crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside . An experienced baker can achieve a unique consistency by controlling the amounts of water and salt and by using different types of flour and pre-dough.
  • The Flavor: An expert in pretzel baking knows the importance of creating the perfect flavor . A pretzel should be both salty and slightly sweet , with a delicate aroma of freshly baked goods. A skilled baker can create an incredible pretzel that will delight the taste buds by using the right combination of ingredients and by properly preparing the dough and shaping.

Tradition of pretzel culture in Munich

Pretzels and pretzel culture have a long tradition in Munich. As early as 1318, the Munich citizen Burghard Wadler had given the poor people from the Heilig-Geist-Spital a pretzel once a year . Once a year, on the day of St. John the Evangelist, a horseman rode through Munich at night on a gray horse so that he could be seen better . In order to hear him better, three horseshoes were loosened. He was called the Breznreiter® .


World record

Incidentally, the largest pretzel in the world is 8.93 m long and 4.06 m wide. With these dimensions, it earned the company a place in the Guinness World Records 2018 Edition book.

"Carb Bomb"

An ordinary pretzel consists mainly of white flour and is a real carbohydrate bomb.

  • Since these are rapidly digestible carbohydrates, there is a rapid and sharp rise in blood sugar and insulin .
  • Strong fluctuations in blood sugar and high insulin levels lead to unhealthy, constant eating of even more carbohydrate and energy-rich foods , make you fat and ill and shorten your life.
  • A medium-sized pretzel has around 230 kilocalories, a 130 heavy pretzel with pumpkin seeds has a whopping 500 kilocalories . XXL versions of 250 grams are already 700 kilocalories heavy , and that without spreads or side dishes or drinks.
  • If you eat a pretzel as a snack, you have to jog for 25 to 60 minutes to get rid of the unnecessary calories.
  • A pastry that consists mainly of white flour is anything but a healthy snack. If you want to enjoy a pretzel, then with healthy side dishes, and as a main meal.
  • If you eat vegetables or salad before or with the white flour product, carbohydrate digestion is slowed down. The dietary fibers from the vegetables then take over the task of the dietary fibers from the missing whole grain product.

Pretzel baking as an intangible cultural heritage

The Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture , Cem Özdemir, has spoken out in favor of recognizing the tradition of artisanal pretzel baking as an intangible cultural heritage . Özdemir welcomed a corresponding announcement by the Württemberg bakers' guild that , as a first step, they wanted to work out a proposal for the inclusion of the craft of pretzel baking in the "National Directory of Intangible Cultural Heritage" together with regional sponsors. The cultural forms listed there correspond to the principles of the UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Inclusion in the national register is a prerequisite for recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Those: www.agrar-presseportal.de/ernaehrung

What is exciting to see

Ceiling fresco and bells in the Church of the Holy Spirit in Munich

The Heiliggeistkirche on the Viktualienmarkt in Munich, probably founded by Ludwig the Kelheimer in 1208 as a hospital with a chapel dedicated to Catherine, is the oldest hall church in Munich and is closely connected to the hospital for the poor and sick. The church has four bells named Heiliggeist, Maria and Josef and the Breznreiter® bell . The latter is named after the medieval tradition of the Breznreiter®, who brought food to the poor.

Dinkelsbühl Münster St. Georg - pretzel window

The Minster of St. George, built between 1448 and 1499 according to plans by Nikolaus Eseler, is considered one of the most beautiful late Gothic hall churches in southern Germany. The tracery of the southern choir window, the "pretzel window", is unique and was donated by the bakers' guild. The pretzels stand for civic spirit and civic pride and are still a visible sign of late medieval “sponsorship”.

The masterpiece can be found in what, according to Focus magazine, is " Germany's most beautiful old town " - Dinkelsbühl on the Romantic Road.

Pretzel window Munster St Georg in Dinkelsbühl

Pretzel window

Baker's window in the Freiburg Minster

Baker's window in Freiburg Minster

Baker's window in Freiburg Minster

The bakers' window can be recognized by the coat of arms with the pretzels and the two loaves of bread as a foundation of the bakers' guild. With nine pin-shaped medallions, it depicts the passion of Catherine of Alexandria.

She was a particularly popular saint, said to have been martyred under the Roman Emperor Maxentius around AD 300. Because of her education, she became the patron saint of students and teachers , as well as the humanities.

About the author

It is more valuable to experience a place in detail than many small impressions of an incomprehensible whole.

Genius Loci - discovering, capturing and experiencing the spirit of a place. Perceive - understand - enjoy!

As a graduate industrial engineer with an additional MBA degree from a renowned university in England (EMBA, EQUIS and AACSB accredited), I have been showing other, often surprising, paths to success for more than 30 years at C-Level (Head of Marketing and Sales worldwide).

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