The New Year’s Pretzel

While doing research for my books set in the Amana Colonies, I particularly enjoyed learning about holiday traditions. Since the New Year will soon arrive, I thought I’d pass along a New Year’s tradition from the colonists—one that was new to me. On New Year’s Day, it was customary to serve pretzel—but not the salty pretzels like we purchase in the store. Rather, a New Year’s Pretzel is a pretzel-shaped coffee cake, very light and sweet, with raisins, and frosted with a white icing.

The pretzel was baked just before New Year’s Eve and then the frosted pretzel was topped with either shredded coconut or sprinkled with chopped nuts. Even today, the tradition continues and the many descendants who live in Amana agree that New Year’s Day isn’t complete until they’ve eaten Pretzel.

After learning about the tradition and securing a recipe, I decided to try my hand at baking a sweet, bread pretzel. I must admit that I was a little concerned when I began my adventure into Pretzel-land because I’d picked up a rapid rise yeast rather than active dry yeast. Not wanting to go out in the freezing weather again, I decided to give the rapid rise a try.

This is a picture of the dough in the “pre-rising” stage after I’d been kneading for about fifteen minutes. The recipe called for twenty minutes of kneading, but I don’t own a mixer with a dough hook and my arms felt like they’d entered a kneading marathon after fifteen minutes, so I called it good. The dough didn’t appear to suffer near as much as my sore arms. Once the dough rested, I divided the dough and rolled it into four ropes. They weren’t exactly equal, but I tried. Then I did my best to shape them into pretzel-shapes before baking.

As you can see, when they came out of the oven, they looked more like giant bulbs for a Christmas tree rather than pretzels. While I was disappointed about the shape, I was pleased it didn’t hurt the taste one bit.

As I mentioned earlier, the pretzel is frosted and sprinkled with coconut or chopped nuts. Among the Amana colonists there remains a bit of disagreement about whether the frosting should be topped with chopped nuts or coconut. Wanting to be fair, I put half of each on the pretzels I baked.

Now, I’m going to be honest. Pretzel is good, but the recipe makes four of them–far too much for one person. So, if you decide you want to bake a New Year’s pretzel, let me know and I’ll share the recipe. But be prepared to share with friends, family or even the birds who are looking for a snack on a cold winter day. Next time I’ll cut the recipe in half—or maybe I’ll expand my horizons and try something new!

Many Blessings in the New Year, and may you find joy as you expand your horizons with the Lord.  ~Judy

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2 Responses to The New Year’s Pretzel

  1. Trixi says:

    Oh my that pretzel looks so good!! They are my favorite and I love soft pretzels with cheese sauce 🙂 Never had a sweet one or heard of the tradition of the New Year one. The frosting sounds like it would add extra sweetness, yummy! Since there are three of us in my house, they certainly wouldn’t go to waste 🙂 I would love for you to share the recipe, I would probably leave out the raisins since I don’t care for them much. Thanks for sharing the tradition, I learned something new today. Blessings!

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    • judithmccoymiller says:

      Hi Trixi,
      You may want to try cutting the recipe in half as it makes four large pretzels. Here’s the recipe:
      2 cups warm water
      2 cakes yeast (I used rapid rise dry yeast)
      6 cups flour
      10 tablespoons sugar
      1 1/2 teaspoons sale
      1 cup raisins (if you like)
      2 eggs
      1/4 cup vegetable shortening, softened
      1 cup shredded coconut or chopped nuts (optional)
      In 1/4 cup very warm water, dissolve yeast. In a very large bowl mix together flour, sugar, salt, raisins, and the rest of the water. Blend in shortening, eggs, and yeast. Turn out on floured board. Knead well for 20 minutes. Place in a very large bowl, cover with a clean cloth, and place in a warm spot overnight. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Roll four equal portions of dough into 2-foot-long ropes (about 1 1/2 inches thick). Fold and twist ropes into pretzel shape, place on a large greased baking sheet, cover with cloth, and allow to rise again–about 3 hours. Dough should double in size. Bake till golden brown (exact time depends upon size of pretzels) about 20 minutes. Allow to cool and rost with thick vanilla frosting and sprinkle tops with coconut or nuts if desired. Makes 4 pretzels.
      Frosting:
      2 tablespoons butter or margarine
      1 cup powdered sugar
      2 tablespoons mil
      1/2 teaspoon vanilla
      Combine butter and sugar in small mixing bowl and beat well. Add milk and vanilla, beating until frosting is lump-free.

      Enjoy, Trixi and Happy New Year.
      Judy Miller

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