A pretzel (known as Brezel in German, sometimes also Brezn or Breze) is a type of baked food made from dough in soft and hard varieties and savory or sweet flavors in a unique knot-like shape, originating in Europe. The pretzel shape is a distinctive symmetrical looped form, with the ends of a long strip of dough intertwine brought together and then twisted back onto itself in a certain way ("a pretzel loop"). Pretzels in stick form may also be called pretzels in the English-speaking context. For seasoning and decoration various glazes, salt crystals, sugar and various seeds or nuts can be used. The size varies from large enough for one to be a sufficient serving, to much smaller.
A bread pretzel popular in southern Germany and adjoining German-speaking areas, as well as in some areas of the United States, is made from wheat flour, water and yeast, usually sprinkled with coarse salt, hand-sized and made for consumption on the same day. It is relatively soft, rather than brittle. To avoid confusion with any other kind of pretzel, German speakers call this variety "Laugenbrezel" (lye pretzel) because it is dipped in lye solution (NaOH) before baking. Sweet pastry pretzels with many textures, toppings and coatings, are made. Crisp hard pretzels, e.g. pretzel sticks and a variety of shapes basically made from the same ingredients, have evolved from the lye pretzel by baking out excess moisture, thereby increasing shelf life and crispness.