Meatless Monday and Pretzels Inspired by Philadelphia

Oct 2013

This week we’ll be visiting the city of Philadelphia and just like other cities around the world,  there are  culinary treats this spot is known for.  What better iconic food to take a look at on Meatless Monday then the soft pretzel? In the city, you can find them being sold from food carts and stalls, and even in some areas when you stop for a traffic light. I’ve read in more than one publication that Philadelphians consume more than 12 times the national average of these soft treats.  After tasting one from the source, it’s easy to see why.

Photo via J.Varney for GPTMC

Here are a few nuggets of pretzel trivia:

  • A pretzel without salt is called a baldy
  • Latin in origin, pretzola translates to little reward, the italian brachiola-little arms
  • A city outside Lancaster, PA., Lititz is said to be the American birthplace.
  • Palantine Germans are thought to have brought the pretzel to America, and were later known as the Pennsylvania Dutch
  • Then there’s the story about the hobo that rewarded a baker’s kindness with the original, secret recipe…not sure which is true.
  • Annual pretzel sales top $180 million and are 2nd, behind potato chips

So let’s get baking!

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
6 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon water
1 large egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).
  • Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope.
  • Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).
  • Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a nonaluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.
  • Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth.
  • Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt.
  • Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Recipe via Kathryn Conrad for Cooking Light

When you visit, make sure to locate one of these tasty morsels for a Philadelphia classic. We found ours at Reading Terminal Market, an historic farmer’s market in Center City, fresh out of the oven-warm,  and full of chewy goodness.