How you doin’? There is nothing better than walking through a shopping mall and taking in the delightful yeasty aroma of fresh-baked pretzels. There are two major players in the soft pretzel space—Wetzel's Pretzels (Pasadena, California) and Auntie Anne's (Lancaster, Pennsylvania). Both of them are franchised and have multiple locations.
You might ask, “How much controversy can there be between two fan favorites?” Obviously, everybody loves pretzels, especially the aroma of hot, soft pretzels. Yum! So, when you’re shopping your way through the mall—whenever we’re allowed to do that again—there is no way you can pass up this delicious snack. Coming from California, some of us are used to the familiar taste of Wetzel’s Pretzel’s, so of course there is a certain amount of brand loyalty to the home brand.
Wetzel’s got me with the first whiff of the buttery aroma… it sends you into childhood bliss—no matter your age! And then there are many college residents who have fond memories of parties with Auntie Anne's make-your-own-pretzel-party pack. After a couple of beers everyone had a good old time baking them off fresh in the dorm oven.
One of our CPG clients (consumer packaged goods) thought it was time for a field trip to determine whose brand was superior. It wasn’t as easy as just comparing one brand against the other—there are flavors (and textures) to consider—butter and salt and cinnamon sugar for starters. The first bite of the Auntie Anne's original pretzel was great. It was salty with just a hint of sweetness in the dough that kept us wanting more. The dough was dense and chewy, completely delicious. The Wetzel's Pretzel had a surprising crunch "Wow, this is really crispy!" Upon further evaluation, we realized that the crispiness was not all that this pretzel had to offer! The dough seemed to melt in our mouths, like ice cream on a hot day. The buttery flavor and salt were essentially the same for both pretzels... it was the dough that put Wetzel's over the edge--Go California!
Before the taste test, we didn’t think there would be a discernible difference between the two brands. We thought Auntie Anne's could catch up as their pretzel seemed like it should complement the cinnamon sugar topping. Once again Wetzel's dough outshone the sweetness of Auntie Anne's, even with the sugary topping!
Knowing all this, our client asked us to develop a soft pretzel recipe and baking procedures for her stall at the Santa Barbara Market. I may be biased, but I think it was an improvement on both of the two stalwart brands. Following is the perfect no-boil recipe to make mall-style soft pretzels. Watch out Auntie Anne and Mr. Wetzel—Dr. Engoron is coming through.
Prep time: 2 hours
Proof time: 1 to 1-1/2 hours
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes
Yield: 12 Pretzels
For the pretzels
4 teaspoons active dry yeast (about 2 packets)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1-1/4 cups warm water (110º F)
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
For the soda dip
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt, for topping
For the “original” topping
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted (use margarine to make it vegan)
2 to 3 tablespoon coarse bagel salt (or coarse sea salt)
To make the pretzels
Covid-19 Quip of the Day: Paranoia has really set in. I sneezed in front of my laptop today and the anti-virus program automatically started a scan.
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Who is Ed Engoron?