Brezels: Germany off the Beaten Track

Brezels…….the snack food of Germany
In Heidelberg as a guest of Heidelberg Marketing,  I had the pleasure of spending a day with expat Charlotte Frey.  As we toured the old town to discover solo friendly activities and restaurants she shared many unique, historic facts about Heidelberg. 
Brezels are sold everywhere
Pretzels are a staple on air flights, pretzels are offered in bars and large, ‘soft’ pretzels are found in food courts and at festivals and fairs.   
Brezels in Germany have a long history and are ever present in daily life in Heidelberg.    As we walked around the Cathedral where vendors may have had the same stalls for hundreds of years, Ms Frey showed me carvings in the stone that resemble pretzels.
In Germany these are BREZELS and have an economic history as well as a gastronomic one.   
The carvings denoted the size standard of the brezel that was to be sold. 

Some of the carvings were much smaller than others.   When the harvest was poor the standardize brezel size was smaller!

Large quantities of brezels were in offered in every bake shop that we passed. Apparently brezels are never made at home but purchased daily.  They have no preservatives and become very hard overnight.  I sampled different styles on offer to determine if there was any difference in taste between the traditional pretzel style, long, ‘fat’ bezels or the thin variety.   I found no difference.

Photo from Wikipedia

Brezels are sold in every bakery in different sizes and shapes.  I wanted to taste several to see if they tasted different.  However, I think they are often sold in 3’s because as I tried to explain I wanted one of eat, the busy bakery sales clerk was very annoyed, but complied with my request.  They tasted the same.  
I did a computer search and even asked the helpful young woman at the tourist office if there were any breazel bakeries I could visit.   When I finally found one, the location was across the river and I had a visit to the castle planned.  Next time I will try to learn to make brezels. 
Bezels are German snack food.  You always have bread with beer.   There is no fat in a Brezel or preservatives.  Charlotte told me “I can’t imagine life without a bretzel“!
Thanks to the great resources online, you find a great history on pretzels!
Here are a few facts about German brezels:
There is a religious connection to the history of the bretze:
“Pretzels have long been integrated into the Christian faith. By the 16th century, it had become tradition to eat pretzels on Good Friday in Germany, and Catholics once considered them the “official food of lent.” Earlier laws of the Church stated that only one meal a day was to be eaten during lent and the food couldn’t come from an animal.”
Pretzels are put into a lye or baking powder solution!
“Before baking, the formed pretzel is dunked briefly in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and water. In German this mixture is called Natronlauge. This is what gives the pretzel its unique color and flavor. Because of this technique, this type of pretzel is also called a Laugenbrezel.”
“Pretzels today continue to be formed by hand as has been done throughout history. Bakers spend years perfecting the pretzel-forming technique. First, the dough needs to be rolled out. Both ends of the strand are held up, and through a quick swing, the center of the strand is twisted. The ends are then pressed onto the body of the pretzel”
250 year old Brezel found in in Regensburg
“Carbon dating showed the pastries were made between 1700 and 1800. Indeed, the archaeologists found written evidence that in 1753 a baker named Johann Georg Held was living at the site.”
The most popular pretzel is the so called Laugenbretzel. It consists out of flour, malt, salt, yeast and water.

Before baking, the formed pretzel is dunked briefly (just some seconds) in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and water (ph 13-14).  It helps to bring about the brown color that will occur during the baking process. In German this mixture is called Natronlauge

What other snack foods are popular in other countries?
Next we visited the oldest chocolate store!

Historic Highlights of Germany:off the beaten path, made my tour of 8 German cities possible.  The opinions are my own.

Published by Lee Laurino

A traveler not a tourist, searching for experiences not in travel books. Solo traveler who travels as long and far as possible sharing photos of the people and places I discover

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