The Twisty History of Pretzels

They buy 'em by the bag . . . they buy 'em by the box . . . they eat 'em in the morning . . .

For breakfast?

They eat 'em all day long!

Dan Dizio and his college roommate Len Lehman opened the Philly Pretzel Factory in 1998, aware that while the average American consumes 2 pounds of pretzels a year, Philadelphians eat 20 pounds!

The company now has 120 locations across 9 states.

Dizo says they made about 125 million pretzels this year. "I pinch myself everyday," he told Rita Braver.

German immigrants, now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, brought soft Bavarian Pretzels to the state.

But it took American ingenuity to create a HARD Pretzel, in the small town of Lititz, when Julius Sturgis decided to try some soft pretzels he'd burned in 1861:

"He said, 'You know what? These taste pretty good!'" historian Mary Ann Haines said. "'If we can make these kinds of pretzels they'd last a whole lot longer, people could keep them in their homes for a long time, and we could make more money.'"

Sturgis' old factory is now a museum, where Haines explains that pretzels date back 1,400 years - first made by monks to represent the way children should say their prayers:

"The monks called it a pretiola, which is Latin for 'little reward,'" said Haines.

Bruce Sturgis, great-great-grandson of Julius, and his Dad, Tom, are still in the pretzel business, mass producing some 4 million pounds a year.

They still test their pretzels the old-fashioned way . . .

"You can see it and listen to it, the way it breaks, the way it snaps and tell if it's baked well," Bruce Sturgis said. "This is very difficult to teach a young baker or a new baker, 'cause this is what you learn over time."

A few miles away, at Martin's Bakery, owned and staffed by Mennonites, time does have a way of standing still. Around here, hard pretzels are still hand-twisted …

"We don't require it at first, but they have to work up to ten a minute," said Kathryn Martin.

And if you think it looks easy - it's not. Dough breaks!

So, never underestimate those little miracles of dough.

For more info:
Philly Pretzel Factory
Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery, Lititz, Pa.
Original Martin's Pretzels, Akron, Pa.