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Pretzels in Reading

  • g

I remember reading an article in the NY Times, oh, about 25 years ago describing some wonderful small pretzel makers in Reading. I mentally filed it away as something worth checking out some time.

Does anyone know the current pretzel scene in Reading? I particularly remember one place that was described as a house with an ancient brick oven in the back, and the pretzels are sold only a few days a week. Does such a thing exist?

Or maybe I dreamed the whole thing.

---Guy

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  1. When traveling in Reading (sales) in the late '60's, I too remember the pretzels. However, I do not believe the place is still in existence.
    There are several places (large) in the Amish country that produce pretzels.

    1. I believe Litiz is the place for pretzels. It's in Lancaster County, south of Reading.

      1. I have a friend who resides in Reading. I have just sent him an email.

        1. The Reading Soft Pretzel Bakery is at Minor Street and Bell Alley in Southwest Reading. It is everything you described and more. Go there just after 11 a.m (M-Sat) to get the last warm batch of the day. These pretzels put Philly soft pretzels to shame.
          While in Reading stop by Johnny and Hon's, a basic neighborhood bar on Kutztown Rd., for great Coney Island burgers and dogs or check out Augie's on Rockland St. for a REAL cheese steak that will make you forget about Pat's and Geno's real fast.

          1. Reading Pretzel Bakery is still going strong 8/28/2013. Yum!

            1. Reading certainly was a major producer of pretzels. A cousin was a resident of a town nearby and had provided cans of very good and fresh local pretzels. There were a few major regional and national brands but I did not know of the small local spots. There is a wonderful small pretzel shop in Litiz offering fresh from the oven treats at various times during the day. A pretzel bakery highly touted and frequently sold out early is
              Shuey's Pretzels
              (717) 272-8332
              702 E Lehman St, Lebanon, PA 17046
              Lines form early on baking days with many leaving with huge bags of freshly baked pretzels.

              1. my faves are in Gettysburg and Akron.
                Whatever you do, You want a place that
                does hard pretzels, even if you're looking for soft.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Chowrin

                  I see soft pretzels being a Philly thing and hard ones being PA Dutch. Hard>soft to me.

                  1. re: sal_acid

                    Soft pretzels from a hard pretzel factory are radically different than normal ones. Or so it seems to me (soft pretzels there being just normal ones, eaten hot/warmish).

                  2. re: Chowrin

                    Second this for both hard and soft pretzels. These are the places you want to be. Stop at Sturgis in Lititz between the two. Akron only has soft pretzels when baking hards. They just pull them out early

                  3. Hard - Soft Pretzel Recipe - I was unsure of the difference in these types of Pretzels, other than the obvious. This is what I found is the difference in ingredients and process.

                    1)Hard is the same steps as soft with the exception of"
                    decrease water and add melted butter.

                    2)Make pretzels smaller and bake until browned.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: Bacchus101

                      the "soft" pretzel you're referencing is not a real soft pretzel, as made in Reading and thereabouts. A soft pretzel is merely a hard pretzel eaten hot (and a bit less cooked. not blackened please).

                      1. re: Chowrin

                        Thanks for your opinion. I'll go with the definition provided by a pretzel manufacturer.

                        1. re: Bacchus101

                          Why, you're welcome!
                          You might start by going to the Gettysburg Pretzel Factory, if you're interested in a competent manufacturer's opinion.

                          Or, you could try asking Pretzel-Man...

                          1. re: Chowrin

                            While I am not sure a Gettysburg Pretzel Factory would be the definitive source of this information; you just go with it. All my information say; When cooking hard pretzels, you use less water, which you replace with melted butter. You also make the pretzels slightly smaller and bake them until they are browned where as soft are usually baked for 4 minutes. The ingredients with the exception of butter and less water in the hard pretzels are the same. Facts not opinions!

                              1. re: Chowrin

                                Fire up your search engine of choice for links.
                                Directions:

                                SOFT PRETZELS:
                                Dissolve yeast in water, add salt and sugar.
                                Blend in all the flour and knead until smooth.
                                When smooth, cut dough into small pieces and roll into ropes. Twist ropes into conventional pretzel shapes and place on a paper-lined cookie sheet.
                                Brush pretzels with beaten egg, sprinkle with coarse salt.
                                Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until brown. These do not keep long.
                                HARD PRETZELS:
                                Do everthing above, but decrease water to 1-1/4 cups and add 1/4 cup of melted butter.
                                Make pretzels smaller and bake until browned.
                                These pretzels will stay good for months in a tight container.

                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                    Thanks for the websites, interestingly none compare the soft to hard and discuss the differences. Differences which were illustrated in the recipe I forwarded. Roll Gold? They do not make soft pretzel? Your googles prove nothing and are not relative to the subject. But hey, have it your way. This is a long road to a small house, not worth the effort.

                                    1. re: Bacchus101

                                      Bacchus,
                                      They aren't going to discuss things that don't exist:
                                      http://www.theoktoberfest.com/HTML/pr...
                                      That's for soft pretzels. Sameish recipe. No egg, no butter, yes to lye or sodawater.

                                      I was trying to point out that what you're pulling up is like looking at Yankee corncake, and trying to call it ranch-style cornbread.

                                      1. re: Bacchus101

                                        Getting Geeky Here: ;-)
                                        http://www.berkshistory.org/articles/...
                                        http://blogs.archives.gov/prologue/?p...
                                        Rold Gold, you should be able to find it in your local supermarket... (I can way out here in Pittsburgh).

                      2. the reading pretzel scene is definitley alive and well. I would check out the locations mentioned on earlier posts as well as Unique pretzels, Bachman's pretzels, and even better - checking out the farmer's market for fresh baked mennonite pretzels. Yummm...

                        1. Update - First annual pretzel festival will be held in Reading pa at the First Energy Stadium (home of the Reading Phils) this upcoming Saturday, September 28th. There are a bunch of great local vendors participating.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: expresso166

                            Had you been to the Festival? Sounds like a great Idea as Reading is/was the Pretzel Capital of the US.

                            1. re: expresso166

                              Got the story of the fest from the web. They made the natural connection of beer and pretzels, a great time was had by all and the 2nd annual is planned for next year. I will mark my calendar and be sure to be there. Thanks for the tip, exxpresso166.

                            2. Amazing that this thread has resurfaced after 10 years!

                              I did in fact visit the Soft Pretzel bakery a couple of times over the years. It is a wonderful place.

                              Now of course through the miracle of Facebook everyone can see (and practically taste) the magic:

                              https://www.facebook.com/BellAlleyPre...

                              I think it's about time for another visit...

                              ---Guy

                               
                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Guy

                                Thanks for the link. First I have heard of Bell Alley Pretzels. From the pictures it has a "speak easy" look to it. Does one need a password to buy pretzels? What fun, thanks. Don't get thru Reading often but I will make a reasonable detour to give this place a try!

                              2. It gets even better, this 18 minute documentary is a "must see":

                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBX2js...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Guy

                                  Great documentary! Now I have to find a reason to get to that area. Well actually Bell Alley Pretzels could be a reason in its self!

                                  It would be great if the guy who started the Pretzel Festival could be sure to include Bell Alley at the next event! You know him? Send him an email maybe?

                                2. I lived and worked in Reading in the early '80's and it still looks the same. Often one of us from the office would drive down first thing in the morning, park in the alley and come out with a bag full right out of the oven. We'd have them for breakfast.

                                  1. I enjoy Reading's Pretzel "Splits" when I come across them.
                                    http://www.uniquesplits.com/