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October 3, 2012

The Philly Soft Pretzel

by Anne Paddock

In the culinary world, Philadelphia is known for the Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich (sliced beef and melted cheese on a soft Italian roll), Italian Ice (frozen flavored ice)  and the Philly Soft Pretzel: a soft tan-colored pretzel that is usually connected to another pretzel in the baking process (to ensure the softness of the sides) . Believed to have been brought over by the Germans and re-created by the Pennsylvania Dutch, the Philly soft pretzel was popularized by the Italians in the south end of the city, where most of the pretzel bakeries are located. Made throughout the night and distributed early in the morning to street vendors, shops, and bakeries, the Philly soft pretzel is found on virtually every street corner in Philadelphia and in more recent years through on-line vendors.

The Philly Soft Pretzel is unlike any other pretzel. Long and in the shape of a figure 8 with two holes (instead of the standard three hole pretzels sold in New York City, the mall, and at sports arenas, the Philly soft pretzel is also thicker than the average pretzel and is sprinkled with salt, without salt (“a baldie”), or has mustard squeezed on the top. The thickness of the pretzel ensures the mustard stays on the pretzel and rarely falls through the holes (because the pretzel is usually consumed rapidly).

For those not in Philadelphia or the surrounding suburbs, the Philly Soft Pretzel can be purchased from Pretzels Direct at  A 10-pack (each pretzel weighs approximately 4.5 ounces and has 290 calories with 1 gram of fat) includes salt and mustard (in separate containers) and costs $17.95; a 30-pack (also with salt and mustard) is $23.95; and a 50-pack (also with salt and mustard) is $28.95.  Perfect for snacking, parties, sporting events, and other occasions, the Philly Soft Pretzel is a refreshing change from popcorn, chips, and other snacks. Overnight shipping is reasonable ($11.50 for my order).

The pretzels arrive beautifully packaged (5 to a row connected) sealed in plastic with separate little cutouts for the salt and mustard in the cardboard box. The pretzels should be eaten immediately or detached, wrapped, and placed in the freezer.  Instructions on how to heat the pretzels (they taste best when warm) and add the salt (unless you prefer a “baldie”) are also enclosed along with a history of the pretzel, which is interesting to read.

Pretzels Direct
2911 Tasker Street
Philadelphia, PA  19146

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