Spoonfuls of Germany

Sealing the year with a pretzel


New Year's PretzelThis morning I made a sweet yeasted pretzel, a German Neujahrsbrezel. While waiting for the dough to rise, I checked my e-mails. Every single one from friends or family in Germany wished me “Guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr”, literally a good slide into the New Year. It occurred to me that I have said that all my life myself yet I have no idea where the expression originates.

One of the possible etymologic explanations is that it came from “git rosh”, the good wishes for the Jewish New Year, Rosh ha-shana, literally the head of the year. In German, that became “Guter Rutsch”.

I like this explanation the best because it fits the menorah that’s sitting in our kitchen right now with nine candles for tonight, the last night of Hanukkah. Just like the latkes I make for Hanukkah every year I relish the happy coexistence of traditions, identities, and languages in our German-Jewish-American patchwork family.

Baking a Neujahrsbrezel is a first for me. In previous years I have made other German New Year’s treats like Marzipan PigletsSilesian Poppyseed Bread Pudding, and Silesian Poppy Seed Roll (the recipe is in my book).New Year's pretzel braidingThe New Year’s Pretzel seemed a befitting wrap-up for this year. 2016 was like the year of the bread for me, the year in which I transitioned into a new stage of bread-baking. Because of the difference in flours, baking German in the United States remains challenging, as I wrote in a blog post this summer. But I am on a bread roll, so stay tuned for more recipes.New Year's pretzel brushingMany people view 2016 as a bad year for mankind, and I agree. But when the world seems a mess and the future frightening and uncertain, I will continue to bake bread if I can. Pulling a beautiful loaf out of the oven catapults me into a happy bubble, and, for a brief moment, all is good.

Sweet Yeasted New Year’s Pretzel (Neujahrsbrezel)

1½ teaspoons active dry yeast

7 tablespoons (100 ml) lukewarm milk

2½ cups (12½ ounces/350 g) all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoons nutmeg

Finely grated zest of ½ organic lemon

2 tablespoons sugar

1 large egg

3 tablespoons (45 g) sour cream

3½ tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, melted

1 egg yolk for brushing, beaten

New Year's Pretzel1. Mix the yeast with the milk in a small bowl and set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.

2. In the bowl of the kitchen machine combine the flour, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and sugar. In a small bowl lightly beat the egg with the sour cream and melted butter. Add the yeast and egg mixture to the flour and knead at low speed for 3 minutes. Lightly oil the bowl and turn the dough over. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

3. Divide the dough into three equal parts and roll each piece into a tapered rope about 33 inches (83 cm) long. Pinch the ropes together at one end and braid them tightly. Pinch the ends together and shape into a large pretzel. Tuck the ends underneath and place the pretzel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees F). Brush the pretzel with egg yolk.

5. Bake on the medium rack for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. It tastes best within a few hours.

Makes 1 large pretzel



17 thoughts on “Sealing the year with a pretzel

  1. Are the measurements for the flour for US flour or german flour. I can get German flour here in Sarasota and makes baking german recipes much easier.
    In reverse I have used german flour on an US recipe and it does not work. In particular if yeast is involved.
    Micky Wagner

  2. sieht super lecker aus. Ich wusste nicht dass es bestimmte Neujahrsrezepte gibt. Ich werde es probieren. (Ottawa, Kanada)

  3. Happy New Year, Nadia!! Your blog has been an inspiration in 2016 – I look forward to many more posts this year!

  4. What a beautiful Brezel, Nadia! Wishing you all the best for 2017 – upwards and onwards…

    • Ginger, same to you! After I posted this, I saw that you also did a pretzel post last year for New Year’s, a giant pretzel, and that we are both fans of Ploetzblog. So here’s to another year of baking wonderful German breads and more in our expat kitchens around the world!

  5. That really is a beautiful bread-pretzel! Love your blog and learning about the German delicacies you create for us Americans.

  6. Pingback: Links: Pickles, Trifles, and Winners - Food in Jars

  7. The pretzel looks amazing. Perfect golden brown color. Mouth watering.

  8. I was so excited to see this post – I’ve been making a German New Year’s Pretzel for years, but I’ve rarely found anyone else who knows what they are – including German’s I’ve meet throughout the years. I was beginning to think it was very specific to just the area that I grew up (Northern Ohio), which was very common and is a strong memory from my childhood. This is slightly different than the one I use, but I look forward to trying this one out. Thanks!

    • Kim, Frankly, I do not know anyone in Germany who bakes a New Year’s Pretzel, so I am not surprised. Nice to hear that a tradition that seems to be forgotten in Germany is still alive in Ohio. I will certainly make it again, it vanished.

      • My family is from Stuttgart and we always made a new year‘s pretzel. But it was a salty dough, not sweet.

  9. We make a new years pretzel in Sandusky, Ohio, an old german tradition locally that immigrants brought with them many years ago. The recipe is similar but we use mace. Check our website “New Years Pretzel” Regards! Gary

  10. Yes – I grew up in Huron and my mom is from Sandusky!! I have now brought the tradition to my family in Vermont. Thanks for the link.

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