Created by monks in early 610 BCE, the unique shape of pretzel is believed to represent a person's arms folded across his chest while praying. The word pretzel comes from the Latin pretiola, meaning "little reward." These treats were given to children who had memorized their prayers.
Traditionally, pretzels are dipped in a bath of lye solution which browns the skin and creates the unique flavor. Take caution while handling the lye solution, and always wear rubber gloves and goggles. Lye, also known as caustic soda or sodium hydroxide, can be purchased online. There are different types, so make sure to purchase food grade.
The pretzel dough has a low hydration and high gluten flour, both contributing to its chewy texture after baking. A small quantity of fat adds extensibility to the dough, making it easier to shape. It also helps to keep the pretzels firm after being refrigerated, making the dipping process easier. The lard can be substituted by an equal weight of butter. Spray the parchment paper with pan spray or use a silicon mat. Otherwise, the pretzels will stick.
This dough can be formed into rolls and sticks in addition to the traditional shape. After arranging on a tray, pretzels can be scored and sprinkled with coarse salt. Other toppings such as seeds and cheese can also be used. Nothing can beat a freshly baked hot pretzels straight out of the oven. Enjoy!