How do I roll the Philadelphia pretzel shape?
This is my first post to The Fresh Loaf, but I've been getting some great advice from the group. I went to Germany early this year, and after coming back from Munich I've been thinking about those Bavarian pretzels a lot, so I'm trying to make my own. I'm getting close to my ideal pretzel recipe and I'll write more about my experiences below, but first I have a question for everyone:
How do I make the Philadelphia soft pretzel shape? It's very different from the iconic German pretzel shape. Please check out this page on google images to see what I mean. Philadelphia pretzels are oval shaped with a loop in the middle and come stuck together as a chain of 12 or so. When you buy them from street carts, you break off how many you want from the chain. I tried a few different shapes today, but none came out anything like the Philly pretzel. I would love to make these at home - I lived in Philadelphia for a while, but I'm in Atlanta now, so I can't even see a real one up close.
Here's some of what I learned from making pretzels, which I hope will help everyone else out:
So far I've tried three different recipes, all very different.
#1 Baking Illustrated Soft Pretzels - All the recipes in this book have turned out to be delicious. This recipe tasted the best of those I've tried so far. The inside of the pretzel is pleasantly chewy thanks to the use of bread flour. However, this recipe uses 1/4 cup of honey, and the pretzels taste strongly of honey. Next time I'll use sugar and cut back the amount. These pretzels were the least attractive when baked, they could use an egg wash like in...
#2 Alton Brown's recipe - This recipe was very good, but not as chewy or tasty as #1. The great take-away from this recipe is that brushing the pretzels with 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water before baking makes the finished product shiny and very attractive. This recipe also calls for boiling in 10 cups water with 2/3 cup baking soda, which is a lot, but it worked well.
#3 Laugabrezla II recipe - The recipe was recommended in another post on this site. I liked this one because it's super fast to make - no waiting for the dough to rise! The flavor was not as complex as the other two recipes, though. To be fair I boiled the pretzels in baking soda and water instead of dipping them into a lye solution, as the recipe calls for. I haven't worked up the courage to use the lye dip yet, but maybe soon. The pretzels in Munich had a special crunchiness on the outside that I'm now convinced can only be attained by using the lye dip. Reheating pretezels in the oven after they've cooled gets them close, though. I've included a picture of the pretzels I made from this recipe.
Pretzel salt - At first I tried using regular Diamond Crystal kosher salt, but that was too fine and just dissolved into the pretzel top. After looking in the spice aisle of every grocery store in Antlanta and not finding anything, I finally ordered a 2lb bag of pretzel salt from Barry Farm. I was hoping that this salt would be the opaque chalky white stuff that comes on Superpretzels, but it's actually coarse clear salt, sort of like sea salt, but in smaller chunks. It works well enough though, which is good since I have 2lbs of it. You can see it in the picture above.
Thanks for reading - I hope someone can tell me the secret of rolling the Philly Pretzel shape.