Pillowy-soft, freshly baked, looped bread rolls from Artisan Foods

Like many foods that have grown to transcend national boundaries, what you understand by the word ‘pretzel’ entirely depends on where you hail from. If you’re American, you may well assume it means family sharing bags of hard stick-like things. If you’re from St Tropez, it might mean a particular shape of bikini.

If you’re German—well, you probably won’t know what to think, given that almost every region of the country has its own tradition regarding the recipe and origins of this delicacy, but what you will know for certain is that everyone else in the world has got it wrong.

Pretzels are not hard crisps—nor are they bikinis. They are bread rolls, pillowy-soft and baked fresh in some sort of loop. They should have a tan coating which has nothing to do with St Tropez and everything to do with the magical effects of lye—the natural alkali in which the dough is coated before being baked.

Chewy, malty, salty
“We get our lye from Germany,” says Daniel of Artisan Foods. “It’s vital for creating that unique look and flavour.” When it goes in it’s transparent; when it comes out, its surface has been transformed into a chewy, malty, salty layer of brown.

It is this that makes the pretzels sold at Artisan Foods so exceptional: this and the fact that they are baked fresh by German bakers to German recipes. “They are very different to the UK stuff,” says Daniel disparagingly. He is German, needless to say, and eats his pretzels dipped in mustard—a classic combo.

Here, we ate it with slices of some rather excellent hard cheese but, frankly, were so impressed by the softness of the crumb and the savouriness of the coating, we’d have happily had it all on its own.