The Kraków Bagel/Pretzel (Obwarzanek Krakowski) is so well-known that the iconic bread is used in marketing campaigns to promote the city of Kraków to visitors and locals alike. The classic baked good which is a circular or oval spiral of dough dates back to the 14th century.
The Polish name denotes that this is “parboiled” (the dough is boiled before baking) and comes from Kraków. They have a short shelf life, and are best if eaten within a few hours of baking. They are usually sold straight from the cart of basket, unpackaged, and unlabeled.
The texture is a juxtaposition of a super crispy, flaky crust around a dense and soft interior. It comes from the boiling/baking method used for bagels and pretzels. The boiling cooks the exterior quickly, setting it so to speak. When it’s baked, the interior isn’t able to expand much, giving you a dense bread. The longer it’s boiled, the thicker the crust.
Obwarzanki Krakowskie (plural) are sold all over Kraków in bakeries, shops, and street carts. It’s estimated that 150,000 are sold in Kraków everyday. Who wouldn’t want to pick up this portable, basic, delicious bread on their way to work or school?
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This post (which I translated with Chrome) gives a peek at the work that happens in the middle of the night to have all those Obwarzanki ready for consumers by 6 AM. I started to say by the crack of dawn, Poland is so far north that much of the year, dawn is either well after 6 AM or hours before.
If you’re planning a visit to Krakow, there is a museum dedicated to Obwarzanek Krakowski. Visitors learn about the history of the baked good and even have a chance to make their own, and some of the sessions are done in English.
The preparation method is different, but the ingredients are basic bread at it’s best, like a baguette. . . classic!
History of The Kraków Bagel/Pretzel (Obwarzanek Krakowski)
The earliest written reference to Obwarzanki comes from the ledger of the Royal household in 1394. The entry states
for the queen, for rings of obwarsanki, 1 grosz
In the 15th century, the bakers guild of Kraków was granted a monopoly of preparing white bread including the Obwarzanek Krakowski. Initially Obwarzanek Krakowski were only prepared during Lent and only by bakers designated by the guild. By the mid-1800s, the rules had relaxed and any baker could prepare them at any time of year.
Which sounds like everything concerning the bakers is going smoothly, not the case.
Regulations Surrounding The Kraków Bagel/Pretzel (Obwarzanek Krakowski)
The Obwarzanek Krakowski’s official EU Regional Product Status has led to what the Kraków Post dubbed Pretzel Wars. It joins the long list of products that have struggled within the confines of the approved regulations. The approved method specifies that the obwarzaneki must be handmade.
One bakery that has purchased machinery to produce Obwarzanki more efficiently has been told his product wouldn’t qualify for the EU certificate. It’s an old story, but I’ve found no record of the issue being resolved.
Different Version of the Recipe
This recipe comes from the website of a Polish food company, Delecta. I did omit their egg white wash because I didn’t see it in the many other recipes that I read.
One thing I did notice is comparing recipes is that the recipes written in English, such as this one on The Spruce by Barbara Rolek (an excellent source), seemed to call for diastic malt, so I ordered some from Amazon.
And then I didn’t use it. Because as a I read multiple recipes on Polish websites, none of them mentioned diastic malt, which is used to improve the color and texture of bread. If you decide to use it, measure carefully and stick to the prescribed amount, too much can make your bread rubbery.
Perhaps, I’ll add some diastic malt in my next batch.
A non-Polish use of Obwarzanek Krakowski
I have multiple fondue pots in the cabinet over the fridge. I’ve been thinking about making fondue, something we haven’t done in many years. Tasting this bread today, fondue popped into my mind again. This would be the perfect texture for a cheese fondue. Is it sacrilege or just another spin on the pretzel and cheese dipping sauce?
Crispy outside soft inside
- 3 3/4 cups bread or 00 flour (500g)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet dry yeast (7g)
- 1 1/4 cup warm water (300ml)
- 3 quarts water (3l)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon honey
- sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt (for toppings)
- Add flour and salt to mixing bowl
- Add yeast to 1 1/4 cups warm water, stir and allow the yeast to dissolve, 5 – 10 minutes
- Add yeast mixture to flour, and mix until well combined, cover the bowl and let rise until doubled in size, 1 – 2 hours depending on the temperature of your room
- Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C)
- Divide dough into 6 portions, roll one portion into a long rope, anout 24 inches long, bring the two ends together, holding the ends and what was the center, twist until your dough is nicely spiraled, secure the ends by pressing together, and shape into a circle or oval, repeat
- Line a large baking sheet pan with parchment
- Bring 3 quarts of water to a gentle simmer, add baking soda, and honey
- Gently place a circle of dough into the water, turning it after 15 – 20 seconds, lift it out and place on parchment lined baking sheet, repeat with remaining 5 circles (one of mine came “unglued” during the boiling process, no worries, I just tucked and pressed the dough back together as it went onto the baking sheet)
- Top with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or kosher salt, bake for about 20 minutes