Anita and Joe Anderson have owned the Philly Pretzel Factory for two years. They took a break from the job to talk about two years of early mornings, twisting pretzels and learning the ropes as bakers.
Anita and Joe Anderson have owned the Philly Pretzel Factory for two years. They took a break from the job to talk about two years of early mornings, twisting pretzels and learning the ropes as bakers. They also offered a tip to pretzel lovers: When you buy a bag of pretzels, keep the top open to let the pretzels breathe. Otherwise the salt will melt and dampen your pretzels.
Q What separates your pretzels from ones you could get somewhere else?
ANITA These are old fashioned pretzels. A lot of the other stores are more of a pastry, they’re sweeter, the dough is different.
JOE We have a lot of people come in who formerly lived in Philly and they’ll say “Oh yeah, this is like being home.” So it takes them back to where they came from.
ANITA Yeah, we hear that a lot.
Q How did you get into the pretzel making business?
ANITA I worked in a pretzel store in New Castle for 13 years and we kind of just fell into this because I worked for the original owner. When she left, the business was closed for a few months. Later we were riding around one day, and we saw cars in the parking lot, so I came in and talked to the owner. She said they were looking for a partner instead, so I became a partner with them. Then they were going to leave, and we bought it from them.
JOE I just like eating them. I just came along for the ride, basically.
Q How do you make pretzels?
ANITA We mix the dough every morning with water, yeast, conditioner and flour, and we put it in a machine called the mixer that runs it through a crank, pushes it out, and a little door comes down and cuts it and rolls it out, and then we take the strips and we twist them.
JOE We set them out to rise, and after they’ve risen we put them in the refrigerator because we want them to get a little shell on them. Then once they’ve got the shell on them, you dip them in a solution to brown them, and bake them.
ANITA The solution is water with baking soda to brown them. If you don’t do that, they’ll come out white. So once they’re wet, you put the salt on them and then bake them.
Q What are your favorite things on the menu?
ANITA My favorite thing is the everything party tray piece or twist, it has garlic, salt, sesame seeds and poppy seeds. Or else the no salt pretzel with cream cheese, that tastes like a bagel, I’ll have that sometimes for breakfast.
JOE A plain old ordinary pretzel with spicy mustard. I like the crisp ends.
Q Was it difficult to learn to twist the pretzels?
JOE Not really. Like with children’s tours, you’ll get a kid come in, just a little girl who does it and makes the perfect pretzel. And she’s ecstatic.
ANITA They were Brownies, and they had a line on each side of the table and we were showing them how to do it, and when she stepped up she picked it up like she was studying it, and she twisted it and laid it down. She was really good. And I told her when you’re 16, you come back and see me.
Q How many pretzels do you make a day?
ANITA About 800 to 1,000, around there. That is just the regular pretzels.
JOE And that depends on what’s going on. A couple weeks ago the hospital wanted 2,000 pretzels for an event.
ANITA We fit 240 pretzels at a time in the oven.
JOE We try not to bake too much ahead because a lot of people like them warm. We twist all our pretzels and put them in the fridge in the morning, and then all day we pull from them and bake them as we need them.
Q What are the most common dipping sauces?
ANITA Yellow mustard or cheddar cheese.
JOE And I’d say the yellow mustard beats the cheese.
ANITA With a stick. It beats it real good.