Saturday, April 4, 2020

Palm Sunday & My Recipe for Palm Pretzels - Palmsonntag & Mein Rezept für Palmbrezeln

Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) otherwise known as Passion Sunday, is April 5 this year, marking the first day of Holy Week (Karwoche), the last week of Lent (Fastenzeit) which starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag). It commemorates the biblical account of Jesus’ triumphant and last ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as the faithful spread palm branches in his path to welcome him.

Crowds of people welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, throwing their cloaks in his path and waving palm branches‘ (John 12:19, Mark 11:1-11, Matthew 21:1-11). 

There are many traditions that take place on Palm Sunday but one of the most popular that actually dates back to the 8th century is the Palm Sunday processions (Palmsonntag Prozessionen) through the streets, traditionally held before church service. Some German parishes and towns still hold these palm parades. After church services, the blessed 'palm twig bouquets' (Palmwedel), many decorated with colorful ribbons, are taken home and while many Christians keep them in their homes all year as a symbol of their faith and place them in vases, others burn them and save the ashes to use on Ash Wednesday (Aschermittwoch) of the following year. According to old beliefs, the palm bouquets may ward off evil and may even protect the home from lightning and stormy weather.

Since palms don’t usually grow in central and northern Europe, instead of palm fronds, various locally available greenery such as box, yew, birch, hazelnut, forsythia or willow twigs and branches are substituted and brought to church.

In certain areas of southwest Germany, peasant customs from the past are preserved as in olden times and some farmers still mix dried pussy-willows into their animal feed to protect them against sickness and epidemics.

The very popular Pretzel (Brezel) is a type of baked pastry made from dough that is commonly shaped into a knot. The traditional pretzel shape is a distinctive symmetrical form, with the ends of a long strip of dough intertwined and then twisted back onto itself in a particular way (a pretzel loop). In modern times, pretzels come in a wide range of shapes, size and flavors.

Salt is the most common seasoning for pretzels, complementing the soda or lye treatment that gives pretzels their traditional skin and flavor acquired through the Maillard reaction. Varieties of pretzels include soft pretzels, which should be eaten shortly after preparation, and hard-baked pretzels, which have a long shelf life.

The German name 'Brezel' is said to derive also from the Latin word 'bracellus' (a medieval term for 'bracelet') or 'bracchiola' (meaning 'little arms'). Popular stories claim that the pretzel was invented by a baker to represent Christian monks crossing their arms in prayer.

The pretzel has also been in use as an emblem of bakers and formerly their guilds in southern German areas since at least the 12th century.

Within the Christian Church, pretzels were regarded as having religious significance for both ingredients and shape. Pretzels called Lenten Prezels (Fastenbrezel) are traditionally made with a simple recipe using only flour and water and could be eaten during Lent (Fastenzeit) when Christians were forbidden to eat eggs, lard, or dairy products such as milk and butter. Their texture and flavor resembles rusks (Zwieback). As time passed, pretzels became associated with both Lent and Easter.

Especially in Catholic areas, such as Austria, Bavaria, or some parts of Swabia, the Palm Pretzel (Palmbrezel) is made only for Palm Sunday celebrations. Their size and weight can vary considerably but Palm Pretzels are larger than usual and are made without salt or brine. They are meant as Lenten fare only for Palm Sunday. In some Catholic areas, these pretzels are part of the decorated 'palm sticks' (Palmstecken), they are mounted on colorful decorated poles, carried through the streets to church to be blessed there and later shared with family and friends.

Palm Pretzels
(the recipe yields 6)

  • 1000g strong baking flower (around here ‚Type 550‘)
  • 140g superfine baking sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 30g lard (you can substitute an equal amount of butter)
  • 10g fine salt
  • 42g fresh yeast OR use 21g active dry yeast or 14g instant yeast instead 
  • 2 eggs (L), free-range or organic
  • 400 bis 450 ml lukewarm milk (I like to use full fat milk)
  • Grated zest from an organic/untreated lemon (you can substitute orange zest or use vanilla sugar instead

In Addition
  • 1 egg (L), free-range or organic
  • some milk
  • flaked almonds and coarse sugar

  1. Add all the ingredients to the bowl of your stander mix and knead for about 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Cover the dough and let rise in a draft-free/warm spot for about an hour or until doubeld in volume.
  3. Place the risen dough on your lighty-floured work surface.
  4. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into six equals parts (each part will weigh about 300g), then divide each portion into 3 equal portions each (that will equal 18 portions weighing about 100g each).
  5. Taking one portion at a time, roll the dough into a long strand - use the palms of your hands to roll it back and forth against the counter top. Push the dough outwards as you roll until you achieve the desired length of about 35 cm.
  6. Then take 3 strands and braid the middle part only, squeeze the ends together and roll them together.
  7. Then pick up the two ends and twist them around each other. Attach the twisted section to the left and the right of pretzel and pinch them firmly into the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough. When you are done, you should have 6 pretzels.
  8. Place two on one parchment lined baking sheet, brush with some egg and milk mixed together, cover loosely and let rise again for about 20 to 30 minutes.
  9. In the meantime pre-heat your oven to about 180°C (356°F).
  10. After the second rise, brush again with egg mixture, sprinkle some coarse sugar and flaked almonds on the middle parts (optional) and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.

(für ca. 6 Palmbrezeln)

  • 1000g Weizenmehl 'Type 550' (kann auch durch 500g 'Type 405' und 500g Type 550' ersetzt werden)
  • 140g feinster Backzucker
  • 100g Butter
  • 30g Schweineschmalz (kann auch durch Butter ersetzt werden)
  • 10g feines Salz
  • 42g frische Hefe (oder 14g Trockenhefe, also 2 Packungen)
  • 2 Eier (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • 400 bis 450ml lauwarme Milch
  • abgeriebene Schale einer Bio-Zitrone (kann auch durch Bio-Orange oder Vanillemark oder -pulver ersetzt werden)

  • 1 Ei (L), Bio-oder Freilandhaltung
  • etwas Milch
  • Mandelblättchen und etwas Hagelzucker

  1. Alle Zutaten 7 bis 10 Minuten in der Teigknetmaschine zu einem Hefeteig verkneten. 
  2. Den Teig zugedeckt an einem warmen Ort zirka 1 Stunde ruhen lassen bis er gut aufgegangen ist bzw, bis es sich verdoppelt hat.
  3. Aus der Schüssel nehmen und auf die leicht bemehlte Arbeitsfläche geben.
  4. Anschließend sechs Portionen mit je zirka 300g abstechen und jede Portion nochmal in 3 gleich große Stücke teilen (ergibt 18 gleich große Stücke à zirka 100g).
  5. Alle Stücke zu Strängen vorrollen. Dann jeden Strang zu einer Länge von zirka 35cm lang ausrollen, dabei darauf achten, dass alle Stränge gleich stark sind.
  6. Dann jeweils 3 Stränge in der Mitte zu einem 3-Strang-Zopf flechten, die Enden gut zusammendrücken und dann zusammen ausrollen.
  7. Die Enden über Kreuz legen, dann einmal verdrehen und links und rechts das Ende festdrücken.
  8. Jeweils zwei Palmbrezelteiglinge auf ein Backblech legen, mit Eistreiche (Ei mit Milch) bepinseln, zudecken und nochmals zirka 20 bis 30 Minuten aufgehen lassen.
  9. In der Zwischenzeit den Ofen vorheizen (180°C).
  10. Dann nochmals mit Eistreiche einpinseln, mit Mandelblättchen und Hagelzucker verzieren und im vorgeheizten Ofen zirka 20 bis 25 Minuten backen oder bis die Brezel goldbraun sind.

Please note that this blog post is part of my series for a 'local' radio station, where, throughout the years, I present different baked goods that are closely tied to various holidays and seasons. If you are interested, have a LOOK & LISTEN (in German)HERE.

The various recipes of my series can be found here:

  • in January, for Three Kings Day (Dreikönigstag) two kinds of Galette des Rois (Dreikönigskuchen) (HERE)
  • for Lent (Fastenzeit) Lenten Soup with Lenten Beugel (Fastenbeugel) (HERE)
  • for Good Friday (Karfreitag) the delicious Hot Cross Buns (HERE)
  • for Pentecost /Whitsun (Pfingsten) the fun Allgäu Bread Birds (Allgäuer Brotvögel) (HERE)
  • for the beginning of the summer vacation, the lovely Sacristains (Almond & Sugar Puff Pastry Sticks) (HERE)
  • for St Christopher's Day (St Christophorus), the energy-packed Müsli Power Bars (Müsli Energieriegel) (HERE)
  • for Mary's Assumption Day (Mariä Himmelfahrt) my Tear & Share Herb Bread (Kräuterbrot) (HERE)
  • for Mary’s Birthday (Mariä Geburt) some very pretty Mary’s Sweet Rolls (Süße Marienküchlein) (HERE)
  • for Thanksgiving (Erntedankfest) a delicious and seasonal Thanksgiving Apple Tart with Frangipane (Erntedank Apfeltarte mit Mandelcreme) (HERE)
  • for Halloween a Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake (Kürbis-Gewürzkuchen)
  • for St Martin's Day (Martinsfest) the cheerful Sweet Dough Men (Weckmänner) (HERE)
  • for St Andrew's Day (Andreastag) a classic Petticoat Tails Shortbread (HERE)
  • for Christmas Day (Weihnachten) these Traditional German Gingerbread (Elisenlebkuchen) (HERE
  • for New Year's Eve New Year's Eve Pretzel (Neujahrsbretzel)
  • for Candelmas Day (Mariä Lichtmess) some delightful Navettes de Saint Victor (HERE)
  • for Carnival Season (Karneval) these lovely Carnival Doughnuts (Karnevals-Krapfen) (HERE
  • for St Patrick's Day a traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread (Irisches Sodabrot)(HERE
  • for St Joseph's Day a long-forgotten but thankfully re-discovered Sweet Cotton Bread (Baumwollbrot)(HERE
  • for Palm Sunday (Palmsonntag) these very pretty Palm Pretzels (Palmbrezel) (HERE)
  • for Easter Sunday (Ostersonntag) an Easter Brunch at Home with Tarte Flambée (Flammkuchen) (HERE)
  • for the Month of May (Marienmonat Mai) these elegant Visitandines de Nancy (HERE
  • for Pentecost/Whitsun these festive Beignets (Heiliggeistkrapfen) (HERE) - more delicious treats to come very soon.


  1. Andrea is normal times we really love celebrate Palm sunday, today with hubby made a little palm and he puts in door house.
    Is sad all churchs are closed and I understand is really hard times.
    We go to the supermarket today, was fine almost find all. But is crazy all people with masks (I understand) and gloves. I use gloves when I go, because always we have thing to touch. Sometimes I dont believe all we are living Andrea, is crazy.
    Hope you and yours are well and have a nice Palm Sunday.
    Your recipe look delicious as well!!

    1. Dearest Gloria, I understand that these are very trying times for all of us but with patience and perseverance we will all come through this. Some days everyday life around us feels like a film and in the morning we seem to wake up thinking this was all a bad dream. But unfortunately it's not and in the meantime it is important to keep up our spirits and celebrating traditions with my close family, albeit on a smaller scale, feels really good and baking and cooking and thereby caring for them is what keeps me sane ;)
      Churches are closed for service around here too but you can follow church service via the internet and a lot of them open for an hour a day so we can still visit (1 or 2 at a time ;).
      Sending a big hug your way!
      Andrea xo

  2. Yes Andrea you have season and I cook baking really healthy for me. And family need eat. But sometimes a feeling of sadness is over me.
    I dont talk about this with family because I dont want they sre worry.
    I think is the first time I talk about it Nd maybe because Easter and Holy week are one of my favorites . Send you hugs and love.

    1. Dear Gloria, I understand that this is an incredibly difficult time and that we all worry. But I am convinced that there are better times ahead for all of us, maybe sooner than we expect.
      I am glad that you you enjoy this post about Palm Sunday so much - and there is more to come soon, at least one post about Easter that I'm hoping you will enjoy as well.
      Feel yourself hugged, my dear friend! We will all get through this, believe me!

  3. I've never seen a braided pretzel, not did I know that there was a link between pretzels and Lent. What I do know is that there is an area of Pennsylvania that was settled by German immigrants, and the people there have a tradition of making the most delicious soft pretzels. I lived there for a couple of years and enjoyed the pretzels immensely. I'll bet this almond version is wonderful.

    1. Dear Jeff, sounds like you probably got to taste some of the traditional delicious foods that the 'Pennsylvania Dutch' make. In the late 18th century, southern German and Swiss German immigrants (they became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch) introduced the pretzel to North America. And, indeed, pretzel used to be a much loved Lenten fare. This version known as the Palm Pretzel has its origion in the Lenten Pretzel - they are just wonderful, not too sweet and perfect with a steaming cup of tea!

    2. I look forward to trying your recipe!

  4. Thanks for another informative post. I had no idea it was Palm Sunday. These pretzels look fabulous!

    1. Dear Gaye, yes, time flies - the week before Easter started off with Palm Sunday two days ago and with quite a few of these Palm Pretzel at our house.
      Stay safe, my friend!

  5. Oh, my gosh, these are definitely the most gorgeous pretzels I've seen! Nick used to beg me to make pretzels after he and his classmates made them in preschool. Not nearly so pretty, but now that I know the religious connenction, I need to add them to my Holy Week baking! How are things in Germany? We have no Masses to help contain the coronavirus...if it wasn't for our pastor's podcasts, it would feel like any other spring week. Stay well, my friend!

    1. Dear Liz, thank you kindly for your wonderful comment - it's a bit hard to believe these days but pretzels used to be a Lenten food (way back), and there are still many different recipes for 'special pretzels' for Easter, for New Years, for Lenten etc. But nowaydays they are also eaten and enjoyed all year round, sweet or savory, with toppings or without and we love that. But every once in a while it's nice to realize where those foods that we eat actually come from. And thank you for asking - churches are also mostly closed, some of them are open for an hour a day (for candle lighting and prayer only, just a few persons at a time) and church service or prayers are sometimes streamed and there are a lot of podcasts too - btw there is a video stream from the Cologne cathedral too :)
      And for us there is also home schooling, online university lectures and virtual everything...things will get better...
      Feel yourself hugged from afar and stay safe!
      Andrea xo

  6. Your braided pretzels are so incredibly beautiful, and I love your choice of almonds and sugar for the coating. While they seem a little time consuming, I can only imagine that the effort is worth it! XO

    1. Dear David, not that time consuming, well, maybe just a tad...And, of course, worth the effort. Actually I like their soft, tender crumb and the sweet pearl sugar/almond topping. Thomas likes to eat his with some fresh butter and I also enjoy them with a bit of local honey.
      Take care, my friend!

  7. As you know I love baking bread but somehow I never got around baking pretzel...thank you so this fantastic recipe Andrea...I love the almond and the sugar on it...and you shaped it so pretty.

    1. Dear Juliana, maybe amidst all the mayhem, you will find the time to bake some Pretzel - whether savory or sweet, they are always a fun project and who doesn't like a freshly baked Pretzel?!
      Happy weekend!