Tomorrow, April 25th is National Pretzel Day. The key to a quality pretzel is a luxurious brown crust with just the right amount of salt covering a chewy bready interior. They are a great sugar free treat to indulge your carb and salt cravings. And just in case you are curious how these unique treats came about we offer a few theories that have been passed down over the ages.
- In 610 AD An Italian monk invented a twisted strip of dough to reward his children for learning their prayers. He folded the dough to resemble arms crossing the chest and called them ‘pretiola’ (“little rewards” in Italian) Of course, there is no known historical evidence to verify this claim.
- 12th Century – An illustration of a pretzel first appears in an medieval manuscript Hortus deliciarum compiled by Herrad of Landsberg at the Hohenburg Abbey in Alsace
- Another source indicate that the pretzel was invented in a monastery in southern France.
- Still another says it was invented in Germany, an invention of desperate bakers held hostage by local dignitaries. (not sure why in desperation they would twist up dough and bake it!)
- And still another claim from a 1905 German encyclopedia indicates that the origin of pretzels rose from a ban of heathen baking traditions including the sun cross, at the Synod (a church council) of Estinnes (a municipality in Belgium) in the year 743. The pretzel may have emerged as a substitute.
Where ever it came from the soft pretzel is now a pretty ubiquitous snack food found in food establishments everywhere but there are a few chains that specialize in the Pretzel. To help you find a pretzel shop near you we offer links to maps of five major pretzel shop chains across the country. Happy Pretzel Day everyone!
Auntie Anne’s Pretzels – The largest of the pretzel shop chains Auntie Anne’s has 992 locations in the United States, primarily in shopping malls across the country. The chain was started by Anne Beiler and her husband, Jonas, in 1988. It began in a farmers market in Downingtown Pennsylvania. Anne Beiler was born in 1949 and is from an Amish family in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania She dropped out of school in the 9th grade.
PretzelMaker/Pretzel Time – PretzelMaker, a west coast chain, was founded by Jeffrey Tripp in 1991 and was initially named Pretzelvania. The chain was sold and merged with Pretzel Time, an east coast chain. The now defunct Hot Sams was also merged into the chain as well. There are 219 locations nationwide.
Wetzel Pretzel – Ricky Wetzel fulfilled his destiny when he started the Wetzel Pretzel shops in 1994. As a kid, his playmates would often exclaim “Hey Wetzel, you pretzel!”. The franchise was founded by Rick Wetzel and Bill Phelps in Rodondo Beach, Californis. There are now 118 locations nationwide.
Philly Pretzel Factory – The first Philly Pretzel Factory opened its doors in Mayfair, Philadelphia, PA in 1998. They now have 161 location, primarily around the Philadelphia metro area. They give out free pretzels on Natonal Pretzel Day!
We’re Rolling Pretzel Company – In October 1996 Kevin Krabill, opened the first We’re Rolling Pretzel Company in Alliance, Ohio with help from his family and friends. There are now 32 locations primarily in Walmarts in Ohio.