A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pretzels - Tasty Snack Food With a Twisted History

Crunchy or fresh-baked and soft, dipped in peanut butter, mustard, chocolate, or yogurt, pretzels are a versatile food enjoyed by many around the globe.  Soft pretzels are made to be consumed the same day and can be sweet with added cinnamon and sugar or savory with garlic, cumin, and other spices. 

Although big companies like Rold Gold butchered the pretzel and added a slew of uncommon ingredients like enriched flour and corn syrup, other companies do it justice with only what's needed.

Wikipedia explains the two main types of pretzel production in this link:
"....is made from wheat flour, water and yeast, glazed with egg wash, usually sprinkled with coarse salt, hand-sized and made for consumption on the same day. It is relatively soft, rather than brittle. To avoid confusion with any other kind of pretzel, German speakers call this variety "Laugenbrezel" (lye pretzel) because it is boiled in lye solution (NaOH) before baking. Sweet pastry pretzels with many different textures, toppings and coatings, are made. Crisp hard pretzels, e.g. pretzel sticks and a variety of shapes basically made from the same ingredients, have evolved from the lye pretzel by baking out excess moisture, thereby increasing shelf life and crispness."

The site explains a lot on the history and unknown origin of the preztel, but I will not yap on about that here.  I have found that the hard and crunchy or warm and soft pretzels are both welcome on my plate.  The soft versions are better for something savory like some good old-fashioned yellow mustard.  Add to that some slices of quality cheese and a tasty brew, and I'm one happy camper.

As for the crunchy guys; I like them with mustard, mixed with chocolate, dipped in cottage cheese or peanut butter, mixed with a carrot, or just by themselves.  Whatever form you enjoy, the average pretzel will have no fat and contain minimal ingredients; these are a much better alternative to potato chips.

On top of their simplistic ingredients, pretzel do offer some benefits like B vitamins (folate, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and B6) and minerals (manganese, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium).  Do like me and seek out the whole grain variety for extra nutrition and stray away from anything enriched.

Here's a list of  my go-to pretzel companies that I can trust:

Unique Pretzel Bakery - I have my Mom's Pennsylvaia Dutch to thank for this being my number one favorite.  Their availability is limited here in Texas, but I have found stores that carry them for a price.  The best ones are their Sprouted Grain "Splits" that I feel are even better than just whole grain.  Either way, these are mine and my Mom's top pick.  Don't question the Dutch!

Snyder's of Hanover - Yes, they are a big company, but I feel they do the pretzel right, can't speak for some of their other products though.  I prefer the Organic Whole Wheat and Oat Sticks when choosing from their selection.  An added plus is the bag is made from post consumer materials.......which makes it very loud so no use being sneaky!  I do have a weakness for the honey mustard flavored nuggets, but only on very rare occasions....mmmmm.
Utz - You see a trend?  All of these companies are based in Pennsylvania; both Snyder's and Utz are in Hanover.  Like I said, don't question the Dutch, they must know something about making a pretzel.  They also make potato chips, but don't waste your time, pretzels are the way to go; my favorite is the Multigrain Specials.
Hopefully you can find one of these brands in your local store, but if not, their sites allow you to purchase online.  Isn't the internet amazing!
Here are ten ways to eat a pretzel that I found on this link:

Check out this link for recipes like macaroni and cheese with a pretzel crust or chicken with a honey mustard pretzel crust.
How do you like to enjoy your pretzel?  Post to comments to let us all know, maybe it's something I'd like to try!


  1. Aunt Annie's Pretzel's also started in Lancaster Co. Pa. They also have a whole wheat version and are really GUT!

  2. Thank you for the comment, I did not know that about Auntie Anne's being based in Lancaster. I checked and did not find a whole wheat pretzel on their website. Do you have a source providing this info? I'd love to try one!

  3. The Pennsylvania "Dutch" as you call them are actually German. The pretzel bakeries and accordant traditions in Pennsylvania are German. Drive around Lancaster or Reading and you'll find Amish pretzel bakeries with German-speaking workers...

    Snyder's is a litte crappy but Utz is reliable.

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