When chefs wants to learn the classic method for cooking, they go to the source. A master pizzaiolo will travel to Naples to achieve dough-making skills. The top tapas cooks go to San Sebastián, Spain.
Tim Garvey wanted to make the perfect pretzel, so he went to Philadelphia. In the 1860s, the first American pretzel was thought to have been cooked in Pennsylvania. Immigrants from Austria and Germany brought their recipe and technique for cooking the “bretzel” to the U.S.
For nearly 150 years, the soft pretzel has been a staple in Philadelphia. It has a distinctive slightly-sweet taste and chain-link shape.
You don’t have to go to all the way to the City of Brotherly Love to get an authentic Philly pretzel. Just stop in at one of the Pretzel Boys shops in Des Peres (11750 Manchester Rd.) or Sunset Hills (3802 S. Lindbergh Blvd.). Pretzel Boys has been in business about six and a half years.
Garvey and his crew of pretzel makers churn out hundreds of chewy, hot steaming pretzels every day. It’s a labor of love for Garvey, who grew up in Philadelphia. After moving to St. Louis, while he was in high school, Garvey sold Gus’s Pretzels around Busch Stadium before Cardinals games. Eventually, he decided to strike out on his own.
“I would go to Philadelphia for a week or two at a time, for three or four trips, to learn everything about pretzel-making,” he said.
That included the precise temperatures required for boiling and baking, and the proper technique for dough-kneading. The entire process is a a two-day event. Like New York bagels and Neapolitan pizza, you can’t rush the dough.
The result is delicious, and popular, as is evident from the constant stream of pretzel aficionados picking up orders at the Pretzel Boys locations. They’ll even make unusual shaped pretzels for special occasions. There’s a shape book available to peruse the options.
And, although Pretzel Boys pretzels are excellent straight out of the oven, they retain their chewiness hours later.