I have been cooking soft pretzels at home for the last two years and having been slowly making my way towards a better, more authentic german lye pretzel. My problem is that my pretzels still seem to be lacking a certain flavor that I can't really describe other than it tastes the way an authentic german pretzel should. Also similar to dark brown hard pretzel snacks. I use a lye bath solution of about 3%-3.5%. I also use diastatic malt powder in place of sugar. From my reading it seems to be another key factor towards the taste I'm looking for. I've done a bunch of different variations on a bunch of different recipes and still haven't quite yet gotten the flavor. I've done Alton's, Hammelmans, Floydm's, translated german recipes, the New York Times& LA Times, and a bunch of random blog recipes. The texture of my pretzels crust seems to be on par with the correct color/soft crunch as expected in a german pretzel. The crumb however has a nice somewhat fluffy/ chewy texture(which is perfect for me), but seems to be a little plain and missing a little of the authentic flavor. I did a taste test comparison with the ones I made and one from a bakery here in LA. The bakery is Rockwagner. My pretzels looked similar. Theirs had a more even color crust but whatever. The taste however was not close. On a scale of 1-10 for rockwagner I'd give it a 9 and mine would be a 7.
Other than theirs being made by professionals in a professional enviornment, what secret ingredient and/or technique could enhance my flavor to get close to rockwagner level pretzels?
Keep in mind I have tried sourdough and other preferments, diastatic and non diastatic malt powder.
Maybe it's a certain mixture in the lye solution, longer fermentations, something but I don't know and would much appreciate any input anyone might have.