Quarentine Day 18, Pretzels

 When I was a little girl, every Saturday my grandfather would walk from the suburbs, 10 miles into the city.  He was a signal operator for the railroad and worked in a RR tower all day, Monday through Friday.  It was a solitary existence.  So, he walked to town each weekend to talk to people along the way, and also to play 'The Numbers'. This was his lone social activity.  He wore his best suit and polished his shoes for each trip. 

He always had a roll of green Lifesavers in his pocket too.

 Most often he would bring home giant pretzels that he bought from the sidewalk vendors.  It took me years to figure out that these vendors were his bookies.  I didn't care, I loved those pretzels.

 Papa died and eventually the lottery replaced "The Numbers'.  The pretzel vendors disappeared too.

 Papa and the pretzels eventually became a distant memory.  Then I decided to recreate them.

 There are so many types of pretzels to be had but the ones from my childhood were special, unlike any others.

 Through trial and error I finally duplicated them. 

 What was the secret to the pretzels of my youth?

 Pepper!  Most pretzels only call for salt.  These pretzels are baked on a bed of flaky salt and cracked black pepper.  To this day I still miss papa,
 but in a way, I get to visit him each time I make these.

Papa's Pretzels:


  • 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 and ¾  - 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • coarse sea salt and pepper for sprinkling
Baking Soda Bath
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 9 cups water
*egg yolk and water for a wash.


  1. Whisk the yeast into warm water. Allow to sit for 1 minute. Whisk in salt, brown sugar, and melted butter. Slowly add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix with  dough hook in a stand mixer for about 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough.
  2. Cover the dough and let it rise for an hour.  At the end of the hour bring the water and baking soda to a boil.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°F . Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.Sprinkle them with cracked black pepper and flaky sea salt.
  4. Divide the dough into 8 pieces.
  5. Roll the dough into a 20-22 inch rope. Take the ends and draw them together so the dough forms a circle. Twist the ends, then bring them towards yourself and press them down into a pretzel shape.
  6. Bring baking soda and 9 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Drop 1-2 pretzels into the boiling water for 20-30 seconds.  Using a slotted spoon, lift the pretzel out of the water place on a towel to absorb the water. Place pretzel onto prepared baking sheet. Brush with a wash made of 1 egg yolk and 1 tsp. of water. Sprinkle each with coarse sea salt. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and serve warm.


Pretzels have never been especially popular here even though all bakeries usually have at least one tray of them. I like them though so every now and again I buy some :-)

Have a great day!

Those were the days when people didn't mind walking for miles. Usually because they had no vehicles and there was no public transportation. During the Depression, one of my uncles courted my auntie who lived in a small town 15 miles away. He walked to visit her every weekend and in the winter, he cross-country skied there. Your pretzel post reminded me of this old story -- thanks!
Rain said…
What a nice memory! Thanks for sharing that! I'm going to use your recipe the next time I make pretzels.
Bee Haven Bev said…
I love this....memories of our grandparents. May our own grandchildren have such sweet memories of us...and I know you are going to be the BEST grandmother!!!
Guillaume said…
These are no small pretzels. Would love to try them. With some beer.
I love the story. When I was an adult, I discovered my favorite uncle was a card gambler and cheated to win and he was a bootlegger. I did not care one bit because I loved him. However, I don't know why, but I do not like pretzels.
chickpea678 said…
Perfect quarantine day activity! Love your memories of Papa down to the color of the Lifesavers in his pocket!
JustGail said…
I've been thinking about making pretzels lately too. I'm going to try sourdough ones (King Arthur recipe) but will add the pepper. With pepper, I wonder if I "need" cheese sauce...