Pizza Pretzels

You know our motto: EAT THE PIZZA. (If you don't know it yet, you'll soon learn.) Eat that pizza. Eat this pizza. Eat those pizzas. We believe in a pizza world with no limits.

By design, pizza is genius. The crust-sauce-toppings combo has endless permutations, which we're stoked to explore with you. But, we can't ignore the glorious realm of pizza-flavored things. That’s why we made a funky flavored pizza last week, but we tackled some pizza-flavored deliciousness this week: PIZZA PRETZELS!

And let us tell you, it’s a match made in heaven. When you watch today’s episode, you’ll learn where the word “pizza” comes from. We’re taking that classic concept and twisting it up into a pretzel, which has a pretty twisted history of its own. We've got soul food and brain food for you right here, and—don't worry—we've shared our recipe with you below.

The Legend of the Pretzel

Legend has it that, back in 610 A.D., Italian monks started twisting dough in the shape of crossed arms (the traditional pose of prayer) to bake and give to their students as treats. It's believed pretzels were originally called either "bracellae," which is the Latin term for "little arms," or “pretiolas,” which means “little treats.” The term was eventually transformed into "bretzel" or “brezel” by the Germans, who are now well-known for their pretzel affection. In all its twisted glory, the pretzel spread across Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

The pretzel came to symbolize good luck and prosperity. In the 1600s, pretzel necklaces were once worn by children in Germany to bring good fortune at New Year’s. Around the same time period, many royal couples in Switzerland used a pretzel in their wedding ceremonies to symbolically "tie the knot." (Much like a soft-baked wishbone.) The pretzel has also been used in some of the earliest “Easter egg hunts,” hidden around family farms for children to find!

The Secret to a Pretzel’s Taste

“Pretzel” refers to the deliciously twisted shape of the bread, but what makes it taste so amazing? The Bavarians are credited with giving the pretzel it’s unique dark brown color and crispy-yet-soft texture…by accident

It’s said that Anton Nepomuk Pfanenbrenner, a Bavarian baker in the 1800s, wanted to brush sugar water onto his dough to make sweet pretzels. But, he accidentally dipped his pastry brush in Natronlauge—a mixture of sodium hydroxide and water. (A.k.a. an alkali base, like we use in today’s episode!) Though that mixture was being used to clean the bakery counters, the baker decided—what the hey—let’s bake these anyway.

It’s a good thing he did! That “mistake” is cited as the invention of the Laugenbrezel and its unique cooking technique. Thus were born the deliciously-crusted, soft-centered pretzels we line up to buy, hot and fresh off the vendors’ carts in cities like Philly and New York. Yes, the pretzel shape is iconic. But, without that magical alkali base to produce the Laugen bread, a pretzel just wouldn’t be a pretzel.

The Pretzel Comes to America

Some say pretzels were among the first immigrants to America, on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims in 1620. The tasty, twisted treats may have been used to trade with the Native Americans they met—but we're still waiting on archaeologists to unearth fossilized pretzel evidence to confirm that. If not, we have the Germans to thank for bringing Pretzels to the states in the early 1700s, when they started settling in Pennsylvania.

The state became the home to the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S., opened by Julius Sturgis (where it’s believed the hard pretzel snacks we now buy in the grocery store were first developed). Pennsylvania is still known as the pretzel-making capital of America, where around 80% of the country’s pretzels are made! On average, Americans eat around 2 pounds of pretzels in a year, but each Pennsylvanian eats close to 12 POUNDS of pretzels each year!

Pizza & Pretzels: A Love Story

Naturally, the genius that is a pretzel’s Laugen dough pairs perfectly with the pinnacle of all crust-based foods: PIZZA. Think about it—there are cheese-baked pretzels, cheese-stuffed pretzels, pretzels served with marinara or cheese sauce for dipping. Pretzels are just begging to be pizza-fied.

And who can blame them? Pretzels may be popular, but they’ve got nothin’ on pizza. In the United States, 350 slices of pizza are eaten EVERY SECOND. Pizza prevails. But don’t get down on yourself, pretzels. We’ve happily pizza-fied you (with the help of Betty Crocker) and taken your deliciousness to the next level. You’re welcome.

Check out the recipe, give it a whirl, and EAT THAT PIZZA (pretzel).

Ingredients:

Pizza Filling
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz) finely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pepperoni
  • 2 Tbsp pizza sauce

Pretzels

  • 1 can (13.8 oz) Pillsbury refrigerated classic pizza crust
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • coarse (kosher or sea) salt
  • pizza sauce, as desired

Optional Toppings We Used in the Episode!

  • whole pepperonis
  • shredded mozzarella cheese

Procedure:

  1. Heat oven to 400°F (200°C). In small bowl, mix Pizza Filling ingredients; set aside. Line large cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. Unroll dough onto lightly floured surface; roll into 14x12-inch rectangle. Using pizza cutter, cut dough lengthwise into 4 strips.

  2. Spoon about 1/4 cup of the filling onto long edge of each dough strip. Stretch dough over filling; brush edges with water, and pinch to seal. Pick up ends of filled dough, and stretch to make 24-inch rope.

  3. To make pretzel shape, form each rope into U shape. Twist ends twice. Press down where dough overlaps in an "X" to hold shape. Pick up ends and fold over so they rest over bottom of U shape.

  4. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave 2 cups water uncovered on high, about 2 minutes or until hot. Add baking soda; stir until dissolved. Dip each pretzel, 1 at a time, into water mixture. Immediately remove from water with large pancake turner (or hands); let stand about 5 minutes. In small bowl, beat egg and 1 tablespoon water with whisk; brush pretzels with egg mixture.

  5. Place pretzels on cookie sheet; sprinkle with coarse salt. (This is also when we topped ours with pepperonis and shredded mozzarella!)

  6. Bake 11 to 15 minutes, or until tops of pretzels are dark golden brown. Serve with pizza sauce and enjoy!

Yields 4 pizza pretzels

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