A pretzel is a glossy salted biscuit made of a flour-and-water dough. Pretzels may be either hard or soft. Soft pretzels are usually baked in the shape of a loose knot, while hard pretzels may be various shapes, including sticks and nuggets. Hard pretzels often have flavoring ingredients, such as cheese, caraway, rye, chocolate, or garlic. Both kinds of pretzels consist mostly of carbohydrates.
The pretzel was probably developed by an Italian monk more than 1,500 years ago. He gave the pretzels to children as a reward for learning their prayers. For centuries, pretzels were twisted by hand. Today they are usually made in modern plants and twisted by machine. In the United States about 400 million pounds of pretzels are produced each year.