Catholic Recipe: Pretzels
Surprising as it sounds, the pretzel has great historical and spiritual significance for Lent. In fact, it used to be the Lenten bread in the early centuries of the Christian era. The faithful in the old Roman Empire kept a very strict fast all through Lent — no milk, no butter, no cheese, no eggs, no cream and, of course, no meat. Instead, they made small breads of water, flour and salt, to accompany their meagre fare of vegetables, fruit, and fish. To remind themselves that Lent was a time of prayer, they shaped these breads in the forms of arms crossed in prayer, and called them "little arms" (bracellae). This Latin word eventually became the Germanic "pretzel."
Thus, the pretzel is the most appropriate food symbol for the season of Lent. It still shows the form of arms crossed in prayer over the chest, reminding us that Lent is a time of prayer. It consists of flour and water only, thus proclaiming Lent as a period of fasting. That pretzels are eaten today all through the year is only accidental. In many sections of Europe they are still served only from Ash Wednesday to Easter, thereby keeping the ancient symbolism alive.
Catholic families could well return to this religious use of the pretzel in the home. The children will be delighted when they hear the true story of this symbol of Lent; and a small pretzel at every dinner plate during Lent will certainly proclaim its spiritual message as clearly and deeply to our modern families as it did to our fellow Christians in ancient Rome — that Lent is a sacred season of prayer and fasting.
Mix together flour, egg yolks, melted butter and salt in a mixing bowl. Slowly add milk until dough is smooth. Place dough on floured board. Beat dough with end of rolling pin for about 15 minutes. Roll small pieces of dough into pencil-like strips. Form into pretzel shape. Drop into boiling water and boil for approximately 5 minutes. Remove pretzel from boiling water; place in refrigerator overnight. Place pretzels on baking dish. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with caraway seed and coarse salt. Bake at 400° until crisp and brown.Recipe Source: Catholic Cookbook, The by William I. Kaufman, The Citadel Press, New York, 1965