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A Favorite Lenten Recipe: Soft Pretzels

Posted by Theology of Home on
A Favorite Lenten Recipe: Soft Pretzels

We would like to introduce Emily Malloy to our readers. Emily will be adding her voice and considerable skills as homemaker, seamstress, florist, baker, and amazing mom to the TOH Blog. 

By Emily Malloy

As Ordinary Time gives way to Lent, many of the faithful think of food in terms of abstinence, as is only right. It is unlikely that the food with Lenten origins comes to mind: the pretzel. An old tale holds that an Italian monk in the 600s first created pretzels--making use of the foodstuffs remaining in the permissible Lenten "diet" of flour, salt, and water--to remind his brothers of the prayerful season. 

By way of the dough's shape, it was to call to mind the prayerful posture of folding one's arms across the chest. The etymology of the name has varying theories stemming from either the Latin word for "little arms" or "reward" as children were given pretzels as a reward for reciting learned prayers.  

No matter the origin, it remains an eternal favorite Lenten food in our home. As our house fills with the aroma of pretzels baking in the oven twice each week for the duration of Lent, pretzels have become the beloved way in which we have connected food to prayer in a way not associated with fasting. 

This recipe is a nod to my childhood in Pennsylvania. The Amish have a wonderful pretzel dough that utilizes brown sugar to sweeten the dough slightly and a butter finish when it comes out of the oven to create a really lovely, soft crust. 


Lenten Soft Pretzels

Ingredients for 8 servings

For the dough:

1 cup whole milk

2 1/4 teaspoons quick rise yeast 

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 - 3 cups all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon kosher salt


For the bath: 

3 cups hot water

2 tablespoons baking soda


For the top: 

3 tablespoons melted butter

Coarse salt  

1. In a small pot over medium heat, warm the milk to 110*. (Heating it any hotter will kill the yeast and not warm enough won't activate it).

2. In a bowl (or in a mixing bowl if using a stand mixer), combine brown sugar, yeast, and warmed milk. Let sit for 5 minutes. Mixture should begin to foam. 

3. Add 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, and butter to the yeast mixture. If using a stand mixer, use your dough attachment and speed on stir to knead. Begin with 2 1/2 cups of flour and slowly add by the 1/4 cup if the dough is too wet. Depending upon the humidity of the day, the recipe might require more flour. 

4. When a smooth ball forms (the dough will be slightly tacky, but shouldn't be overly sticky), place into a greased bowl and cover with a clean dish towel and allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes or until it has doubled in size. 

5. Punch down the dough and place onto a lightly floured surface. Separate the dough into 8 equal pieces. 

6. Preheat the oven to 400* and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat.

7. To shape the pretzels, roll the dough back and forth on your surface to create a rope. Loop the dough in half and twist the ends twice. Bring the twisted ends of the dough down and lightly press into the loop of the dough to form a pretzel.

8. In a large bowl, combine the 3 cups of hot water and baking soda to prepare a bath for the pretzels. Gently lower each shaped pretzel into the water bath, making sure it has been fully immersed and place directly onto the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle each pretzel with coarse salt. 

9. Bake for 7-11 minutes.

10. When pretzels are golden brown, remove them from the oven and immediately brush melted butter. Cool for 5 minutes and immediately serve.


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