When Were Pretzels First Made?
Pretzels may not taste or look like biscuits or crackers-but all of these are actually alike in many ways.
They are all small and crisp, and keep well. They are even made on the same kinds of machines and packaged in the same way. Special baking plants turn out all three with only slight changes in equipment and recipes.
They are made with the same ingredients-flour, leavening, fat, sweetening, and liquid. Usually the leavening in these products is baking powder instead of yeast. In the oven the baking powder, creates carbon-dioxide gas, which makes the baked goods light without making them rise too high.
Pretzels have a long history. They date back to the early Christians in the Roman Empire. They were used at that time solely for religious purposes. Fat, milk, and eggs were forbidden during the Lenten season, and people ate dry pretzels instead of bread. They were especially popular on Ash Wednesday. It was only in modern times that they became popular as snacks to nibble on.
In northern Europe and the Scandinavian countries, the pretzel has become the sign of the baker. A larger golden pretzel is usually seen hanging outside each bakery.
The original pretzel was a large twist with a soft inside and a crusty outside. By baking out almost all of the moisture, manufacturers produce the crisp, hard pretzel we eat today. Made from very stiff dough, the pretzels are actually salty baked biscuits. They are twisted or shaped into sticks.
By the way, the name “biscuit” comes from the early French word for “twice cooked.” During the Middle Ages, French travellers, soldiers, and sailors carried a strange, hard bread. The bread had been cooked twice to keep it from spoiling. This hard bread was what we call the biscuit.
When we buy biscuits today, they come wrapped to keep the moisture out so that they will be as crisp as when they left the oven.