Last year at this time, Amy Gross, owner of Pretzel Logic, was an ed tech at Greene Central School. She was trying to put together a cooking project for her students to work on that would be fun. Also hands-on. And something fun for them to eat.
That project turned out to be soft pretzels. One year later, Gross, of Monmouth, is no longer an ed tech. “Now I do this full time,” she says. Gross had eaten her fair share of soft pretzels when she was a college student living in Philadelphia. She laughs, saying, “It was the easiest thing to grab for breakfast.”
Her pretzels were such a hit that friends and co-workers began to special order them. “I would end up making several dozen at a time.” Without those friends, “I don’t think any of this would have happened,” she says. Within months, she was officially in business and had named her company “Pretzel Logic,” inspired by the 1974 Steely Dan album of the same name.
Today, she shares her favorite pretzel recipe, the basic, traditional version. Referring to the process, she admits it seems a little unnatural to place the pretzel in boiling water, but says that helps them proof (rise) a little bit. The rest of the rising is done in the oven. “That’s also what gives them the nice, smooth finish on the outside.”
She compares the simplicity of making the traditional pretzel to a blank canvas, and says she is always looking for ways to change the flavor. “I love coming up with new flavors!” The very first flavor she offered was cinnamon-raisin. She will periodically offer something more seasonal. “When blueberries are ready, I’ll start that one again.”
As an accompaniment to the pretzel recipe, she has included one of her favorite recipes for a flavorful home-made mustard.
The easy part about making soft pretzels, she says, is gathering the ingredients. “It’s really quite simple.” Also, she says they are quite forgiving: “They don’t have to be shaped perfectly to still taste delicious.”
The more difficult part of pretzel making is the length of time it takes. “The hard part for me, making them in large quantities, is the labor involved, and doing them on a large scale. It’s kind of a long process, but not complicated.”
She regularly makes eight flavors: traditional, garlic/herb/parmesan, cheddar, spinach-feta-and-sun-dried tomato, honey wheat, cinnamon raisin, and cranberry-orange. “And lately I’ve done a broccoli-and-cheddar-stuffed pretzel. . . . I’ll stop there until I can get myself into a larger kitchen,” she says. Many pretzels also pair well with marinara sauce, she adds.
Just ending her first year of business, she has focused on selling at farmers’ markets. She currently sets up at three winter markets, and will expand this summer to five outdoor markets.
Her first steps at expanding will also begin this summer. “I’ll be renting kitchen space at a local restaurant, and will be able to use commercial-grade equipment and a larger oven.” She also plans to hire her first employee.
“I would like to do wholesale after I’m set up in my own commercial kitchen,” she says. “My immediate focus is to transition out of my home kitchen and move into a commercial space.” She’d also love to have a retail location, and possibly a mobile unit, where pretzels could be baked on-board.
Gross says she really appreciates the story behind Stonewall Kitchen, a specialty food company that started making and selling jam at farmers’ markets in 1991. “I’ve been very encouraged and inspired by their success. It’s nice to know you can start out on a folding card table!”
Although Gross makes fabulous cinnamon rolls, which she will sometimes make as a special order, she says “I really like specializing in one thing. Generally, I just love to cook and to bake.”
Her basic pretzels typically sell for $3, or $30 a dozen. Stuffed pretzels are $5 each. Trays can be ordered for parties or meetings. Leftover pretzels, which are not always available because she oftentimes sells out, are made into pretzel chips, and are sold by the package.
More information, along with dates and locations of farmers’ markets Gross attends, can be found on the Pretzel Logic Gourmet Facebook page. Or orders are welcome by phone at 207-620-2453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 package dry yeast
1-1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt
4-5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking soda
1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup of the warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining 1 cup of the water.
2. Mix 4 cups of flour and salt in a large bowl.
3. Add yeast mixture and mix to form a stiff dough, adding extra flour if necessary.
4. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes or until dough is elastic.
5. Form the dough into a ball and place in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let dough rise for 45 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
7. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
8. Pinch off a small amount of dough and form into desired shape. (Traditional pretzel shape, sticks, etc.) Go to www.sunjournal.com to see how Gross shapes a traditional pretzel.
9. Bring at least 4 cups of water to a boil, then dissolve baking soda in boiling water.
10. Drop several shaped pretzels into boiling baking soda bath. Allow to simmer until pretzels float to the surface.
11. Remove pretzels with slotted spoon or spider and drain on a kitchen towel.
12. Place pretzels on prepared baking sheet and brush with melted butter.
13. Sprinkle with kosher salt (or other topping of choice).
14. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Best served fresh, eaten on the same day.
Once at room temperature, they are easily frozen in a freezer bag. To reheat, put the frozen pretzel directly on a baking sheet and heat in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
Grainy Mustard with Sun-Dried Tomato and Basil
A perfect home-made mustard to serve with your fresh soft-dough pretzels. Should be made four or five days ahead of serving pretzel, in order for the flavors to blend. Can also be used as a sandwich spread or condiment.
1/4 cup yellow mustard seed
1/4 cup brown mustard seed
8 sun-dried tomato halves
1 cup dry white wine
4 teaspoons mustard powder
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 chopped, fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Soak mustard seeds and sun-dried tomato halves in white wine overnight. Do not drain. Combine the soaked seed mixture with remaining ingredients. Place in food processor and grind into a paste. Transfer to a container with a lid and refrigerate for 4 to 5 days before using, to allow flavors to meld.