Tuesday, April 26, 2016

South Philly Style Soft Pretzels

By: The Food Hunter

April is National Soft Pretzel month and being a Philadelphia native that is a big deal. Soft pretzels are a huge part of the Philadelphia food culture. Although not invented in Philly, there was a time you could find them being sold out of a push-cart on nearly every street corner. Growing up we had "pretzel boys" who walked up and down the street singing "fresh pretzels" as loud as possible. Soft pretzels were even sold in schools during recess.

In 2003, Governor Ed Rendell (from Philadelphia) declared April 26th National Pretzel Day to acknowledge the importance of this delicious snack to the state's history. It's only natural than that Pennsylvania is the highest producer of pretzels in the nation and Philadelphia residents consume the most pretzels per year.


Most Philadelphians prefer their pretzels perfectly brown, lightly crisp on the outside and chewy inside. Food grade lye is used to accomplish this. Though you can substitute baking soda the results are not the quite the same. The lye changes the pretzel's flavor and color in a way that can't be explained without tasting it.

Eaten on the run, topped with mustard or not, soft pretzels are one of the most recognizable Philly foods.In honor of this fabulous "snack food" I am sharing a recipe for Philly Style Soft Pretzels as part of this month's Progressive Eats dinner.


South Philly Style Soft Pretzels
15 ounces (3 cups) bread flour
1/2 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon yeast (active dry)
1.75 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 cup food grade lye
Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt

In a mixing bowl (or bowl of a mixer), stir together brown sugar, butter, yeast, 2 cups warm water and half the flour. Add kosher salt and remaining flour and stir just until mixture comes together in a shaggy mass.

Turn out onto counter (or attach dough hook to mixer) and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and supple. Cut into 12 pieces and let rest 5 minutes.

Roll out each piece into a rope about 22 inches long. (For traditional shape, the ends should be thin and the center fat.) Lift both ends, twist them around each other once, then bring ends back and press them on either side of fat “belly,” at about 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock. Then gently spread out ends of pretzel. Transfer shaped pretzels to an ungreased baking sheet. 

Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate at least one hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a deep bowl, wearing latex gloves, make a solution of 1/2 cup lye and 10 cups water (or 1 part lye to 20 parts water); pour lye carefully into water to avoid splashing. 

Dip each pretzel in solution, turning it over for 10 to 15 seconds, and place back on baking sheet. Sprinkle pretzels with salt. Bake about 15-20 minutes or until deep brown. Remove to a rack and allow to cool.




Welcome to Progressive Eats Pretzel Party, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party.

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.

We have a core group of 12 bloggers, but we will always need substitutes and if there is enough interest would consider additional groups. To see our upcoming themes and how you can participate, please check out the schedule at Creative Culinary or contact Barb for more information.


Pretzels as an Ingredient

Pretzels from Scratch

20 comments:

  1. Wow, these look like the perfect way to celebrate National Pretzel Day...though I'd want to make every day NPD if I had these! I've been wanting to try shaping them this way for a while now...I really need to give it a try.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Though not on EVERY corner, there are still pretzel cart guys all over the city! I was running a 5K, and they were on the side of the race course, trying to sell pretzels to runners and spectators alike! It's hilarious. You're pretzels look great!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow, you made the real deal! So fabulous!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I haven't made homemade pretzels in ages. My guys have been begging for them and this is just the ticket!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Yum! I love a big pretzel with salt and mustard!

    ReplyDelete
  6. OH, how long has it been since I've had a chewy pretzel with mustard?? Love this!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I might be able to adapt this with our grain-free sourdough recipe. My kids would flip!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Soft pretzels are the best! Love all of that coarse salt.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I seriously had no idea that soft pretzels were such an iconic part of Philadelphia food culture - really interesting! Plus, such a great recipe and all the other fun ideas from other bloggers - a true celebration of Soft Pretzel month! :D

    ReplyDelete
  10. I've never made pretzels using lye but I know it's such an important part of authenticity - I need to get some!

    ReplyDelete
  11. My father is from Philadelphia and when we visited when I was little, I found it so funny that there were guys outside of the gas stations selling soft pretzels. I wonder if they still do that. :D And these look delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  12. These look incredible! My favorite!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm a New York street pretzel fanatic, so I'll take these in a pinch. And yes, I've heard you need the food grade lye to get the real deal, although I've never actually used it. Love your photo - looks like yours are perfect.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I didn't even realize that there is a food grade lye. This is so interesting and I'd love about 27 of these!

    ReplyDelete
  15. That is delicious Pretzels, I need to make it, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop pinning and tweeting

    ReplyDelete
  16. I've never been brave enough to make my pretzels with lye. I am a messy cook and prone to splashing about. Love that you went for the Real Deal with these. So great!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Oh yeah! I am a Philly girl, born & raised! Nothing better than a fresh-made hot Philly pretzel with spicy mustard and a few sips of a Pepsi! Yours look great!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Ooo I've been thinking about making pretzels at home! I'll have to start looking for some food lye!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I love making pretzels! It's so fun, and you get to eat a delicious pretzel when you're done! Win-win! These look great. Need to try them soon!

    ReplyDelete