Falling over Passover isn’t going to stop the celebration of National Pretzel Day! Today is the day, and after a few days of matzo, I’m craving pretzels! These soft rye pretzels are such a treat – they take about an afternoon to make, but are well-worth the effort.
I’ve been on a Dutch Golden Age paintings kick lately, and this post keeps it going. There where a considerable amount of bakeries in 17th century Holland, and paintings of them were a very popular painting subject at the time. Jan Steen’s work, The Leiden Baker Arent Oostwaard and His Wife Catharina Keizerswaard shows a baker and his wife proudly showing off their baked goods. Baker Arent has just come out of the bakery and stands by the planks of his goods, while his wife stands in the doorway holding a piece of bread. A young boy, which is actually Steen’s son, stands behind the baker blowing a horn, which was the customary way to let the neighborhood know that the bread was ready. Steen was known for his genre scenes, but this one might have been more personal for him. Steen’s wife died very young, leaving him with five small children to care for. Apparently he made a deal with a local baker to pay a flat fee each week for enough bread to feed his family. Steen’s family joked that they only ate bread because of this agreement, nothing else! The painter identified his subjects here, by inscribing their names on the back of the painting, something that was significant for genre scenes.
Pretzels are shown cooling on a specially-designed rack in Steen’s work, as well as Job Berckheyde’s version of a similar scene, simply called Baker. Here an unnamed baker is shown trumpeting the readiness of that morning’s bread to be sold. He is literally tooting his own horn! 🙂 It is a welcoming scene, and it seems to also be a sort of self-portrait of the artist – he has painted himself in as the baker!
These doughy pretzels are the perfect snack, and will be the first thing I make when Passover ends this weekend!
During the second rise, fill a large pasta pot with 10 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the baking soda. Poach the pretzels, a couple at a time for 30 seconds, and then remove from the bath with a slotted spoon. Let the pretzels drain on paper towels as you finish the whole batch. Sprinkle each pretzel with a pinch of flaky sea salt and then arrange back on the baking sheets. Bake for 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Let cool for a few minutes, and enjoy while they are hot! They are especially good with a drizzle of honey!
Recipe from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
Featured art: Jan Steen, The Leiden Baker Arent Oostwaard and His Wife Catharina Keizerswaard, oil on panel, circa 1658
Job Berckheyde, Baker, oil on canvas, circa 1681