Soft Pretzel

The snack item commonly associated with Philadelphia, but not invented there, is the soft pretzel. The soft pretzel dates back to 7th-century France and was brought over to the Philadelphia area by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Pretzels became iconic with Philadelphia by the numerous vendors who would sell them on street corners. Water ice or Italian ice is similarly associated with Philadelphia because of its popularity here. Tastykake is the most well-known snack brand native to Philadelphia.

A pretzel (known as Brezel in German) 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 sufficient, 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, glazed with egg wash, 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 boiled in lye solution (NaOH) before baking. Sweet pastry pretzels with many different 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.