Originating in Europe, pretzels were once given by Italian monks, who invented the knot-like shape, to children as a reward for learning their prayers. They were even in a shape that represented hands that were clasped in prayer.
The simple recipe of flour and water was ideal for the Lenten season when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard or dairy products.
Still popular today, pretzels are treated in washing soda or lye to give them their traditional shiny skin and their flavor.
PRETZEL FUN — Snapper pretzels are made to look like barbecue grills to please the children. There is a kabob grill, a steak grill and hot dog grill. All are made from various candies. It would be fun for children to help make these desserts, too.
The bread-dough product was once hidden as treats the same as Easter eggs are today.
Pretzels were celebrated with their own day, April 26, designated as National Pretzel Day, but they didn't need a special day to become a popular snack.
The Milk Shake Factory, makers of Snappers Pretzels, has been in business since 1914, settling in Pittsburgh to produce a different kind of pretzel, one covered with milk chocolate and a soft creamy caramel. This was inspired by the Turtles candy.
They have included a tip on how to make their Crunchy, Salty and Sweet brand pretzels a bit different. Children would love it, as the Snappers are transformed into a barbecue.
Here are instructions on how to make a Snapper pretzel that resembles a barbecue grill, with candy formed to resemble kabobs, steaks and hot dogs. The kids will love these.
Here are the directions:
Melt two ounces dark chocolate. Place a few tablespoons of the chocolate into a disposable piping bag and cut a small hole at the tip. Pipe parallel lines across three Snappers to make grill lines. Set aside to dry. Take three red or pink oblong candies - Hot Tamales candy was suggested - and pipe three lines across to resemble grill sear lines on the hotdogs. Allow to dry. Cut 3/4-inch slices off a cow tail candy and pinch each piece into a T-shape to resemble a steak. Set aside. Cut various colored gummy candies or Starbursts into small pieces and skewer, using two toothpicks. Place a blob of chocolate on the bottom of each candy and place on the pretzel grills and allow to dry.
Ice cream sandwiches can be made by laying a Snapper face-down on a plate or wax paper. Using a small scoop or spoon, the suggestion is to use a 1 1/3-ounce scoop, place a thick layer of ice cream onto the Snapper. Take a second Snapper, face up, and sandwich the ice cream between both. Roll the edges of the ice cream sandwich in a mix of colored sprinkles. Serve immediately.
Taste of Home had this recipe for M&M cookies and coconut that are loaded with pretzel pieces in a spring magazine addition.
They are just in time for graduation parties, picnics and showers. They also note that you can add any other ingredients to make the cookie interesting.
Loaded-Up Pretzel Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups miniature pretzels, broken up
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate M&M's
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually beat into creamed mixture. Stir in remaining ingredients. Shape 1/4 cupful of dough into balls. Place 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Makes 2 dozen large cookies that have 205 calories and 13 grams fat.
Pretzels combine well with cookies, giving them an extra crunch. And their salty flavor combines well with the sweetness of marshmallows and chocolate and peanut butter.
This recipe is also from Taste of Home magazine. It is the age-old recipe for Rice Krispies bars with a new twist. The bars are spread with a chocolate/peanut butter icing and topped with dry-roasted peanuts and coarsely chopped pretzels.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Crunch Bars
3 cups miniature pretzels, coarsely chopped
10 tablespoons butter, divided
10 1/2-ounce package miniature marshmallows
3 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup light corn syrup, divided
3/4 cup peanut butter chips
6 ounces, 1 cup, semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped
Reserve 1/3 cup chopped pretzels. In a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave 6 tablespoons butter on high for 45-60 seconds or until melted. Stir in marshmallows, cook 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until marshmallows are melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir in Rice Krispies and remaining chopped pretzels. Immediately press into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. In another microwave-safe bowl, combine 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup corn syrup.
Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45-60 seconds or until butter is melted, stirring once. Add peanut butter chips, cook 30 to 40 seconds or until chips are melted, stirring once. Spread over top. In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the remaining corn syrup and remaining butter. Cook on high for 45-60 seconds or until butter is melted, stirring once. Add chocolate chips, cook 30-40 seconds longer or until chips are melted. Spread over top of peanut butter topping. Sprinkle with peanuts and reserved pretzels. Press down gently. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes or until set. Cut into 36 bars. Store in an airtight container.
Note: The recipe was tested in a 1,100-watt microwave. There are 136 calories in each bar.
This recipe calls for finely crushing pretzels that are used as the crust for strips of boneless, skinless chicken. A flavorful salsa gives each strip a zesty taste.
Crispy Chicken Strips
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1/2 cup jarred salsa
1 3/4 cups finely crushed pretzels, about 4 cups pretzels
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Combine finely crushed pretzels, scallions and cilantro. Dip chicken strips in salsa and then in pretzel mixture. Press gently to help it adhere. Transfer to a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees until chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with additional salsa and sour cream on the side, if desired. Serves four.
This is a pretzel crust, with a cheesecake type topping that calls for no baking and topped with assorted fresh fruit. The crust can be used for cream pies that are not baked as well.
Pretzel Fruit Pizza
3 cups finely crushed pretzels
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups cold butter, cubed
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime peel
1 1/2 cups whipped topping
7 cups assorted fresh fruit or a single choice of fruit such as fresh peaches or fresh strawberries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix crushed pretzels and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into a 14-inch pizza pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a large bowl, mix milk, lime juice and lime peel. Fold in whipped topping. Spread over crust and refrigerate until cold. Just before serving, top with sliced fruit. This will serve eight people and has 760 calories per slice - a dessert you might want to save calories for.
Note: Since limes are so costly, you might try lemon juice and grated peel.
In my Nutella food column last week, I noted that the recipe called for vanilla sugar, and I confessed to not knowing what it was. Little did I think that the answer was as close as Google. Janice Kiaski, who so graciously lets me spread out my recipes each Wednesday, learned the following online:
Vanilla sugar is mostly a homemade item that is sold commercially primarily in gourmet shops or from online gourmet vendors. It is a term used by cooks for sugar that is flavored with a vanilla bean.
You can make vanilla sugar at home very easily by splitting a vanilla bean, scraping out the seeds and using them in a recipe and burying the split bean in a container of sugar. Cover tightly and after about a week, the vanilla bean will have flavored the sugar with a perfumey vanilla scent and taste that will improve everything from a coffee cake or cookie topping to a cup of hot cocoa.
Vanilla sugar also is good as a substitute for regular sugar in scones, quick breads or almost anything that would benefit from a vanilla undertone.
So now, we have discovered the making of vanilla sugar. And to think that I said to merely add some vanilla from a bottle to the recipe.
(McCoy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)