Despite Webster 1913's simplistic claim that bretzel is a synonym for pretzel, the true bretzel can best be described as the Uberpretzel.

A bretzel is to a pretzel, what a loaf of French Bread is to a crouton. A real bretzel, the kind you might find in a Bavarian Beer Garden, is larger than your average pizza. It's crisp on the outside, but soft and moist on the inside. The top is sprinkled with salt crystals the size of peanuts.

You could easily look at a photograph of a Bavarian beer next to a bretzel and think you were looking at American beer and pretzels. But then you might notice the body of a drowned tourist floating in the beer...

Krusty: The French or German origins of the bretzel are at least as debatable as those of Alsace!
Legend on the creation of the Bretzel:
Once upon a time, in Alsace, there was a baker who had been emprisonned for having insulted the local Lord's wife. The Lord challenged the baker: "If you can cook me a cake through which I can see the sun three times, you will be freed.". The baker took some dough, bent it in a knot shape and cooked it. The Lord, recongnizing the smart spirit of the baker, freed him.
Subliminal message hidden in this post: Bretzels are french, not german ;)

The European bretzel or brezel is a completely different animal from the American pretzel (those little hard thingies that are sold in bags and attack presidents are NOT discussed in this writeup. I am referring solely to the domesticated soft pretzel.).

The bretzel is firm, moist bread enclosed by a crunchy dark brown crust sprinkled liberally with salt. The soft pretzel, on the other hand, is (*DISCLAIMER* : I love these things, but it's true..) more akin to a slightly rubbery, either un- or completely oversalted tube enclosing dough of the approximate consistency of play-doh. Tasty, yes, but nothing compared to the gustatory as well as textural orgy that is a bretzel.

The only proper way to eat a bretzel, of course, is hot from the oven, sliced down the middle and liberally slathered with butter (none of that margarine spread stuff). Most people would also recommend one or more beers as the perfect accompaniment.

To find the true bretzel, you must go to its natural habitat, western Europe. However, hybrid versions have been spotted in the US, most often in the vicinity of German bakeries. Happy hunting!

This writeup inspired by the fact that my local German bakery has finally started making bretzels, hurrah!!

Bret"zel (?), n. [G.]

See Pretzel.


© Webster 1913.

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