Pennsylvania Pretzel Art - Gastro Obscura

Food Art

Pennsylvania Pretzel Art

In Langhorne, Pennsylvania, two brothers decided to take their doughy creations to the next level.

It all started simply: Brian Kean and his brother Shaun decided to open a Philly Pretzel Factory franchise in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, in 2006. They made dough, twisted pretzels, and sold salty snacks with sleek, browned exteriors that attracted a steady stream of customers. When Halloween rolled around, the brothers wanted to add a new twist to their twists. So they made a few pretzels in the shapes of pumpkins and ghosts. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, a turkey-shaped pretzel was another inevitable invention. Soon, customers started challenging them with more detailed designs: a horse for the Belmont Stakes, a menorah for Hanukkah, and a great white shark for, of course, Shark Week.

Years later, Brian and Shaun have turned their three-ingredient base (flour, water, salt) into hundreds of designs that they make, special-order, for any occasion. Want a seahorse for your goodie bags? Or a graduation cap for your end-of-semester celebration? How about a pineapple for your tiki party? According to Brian, twisting 1,000 to 3,000 traditional-style pretzels per day can get a little monotonous, but “once we are at the tail end of twisting is where the creativity comes in.” That’s when they either work on custom shapes, or, if no orders are on the day’s docket, come up with their own designs.

The hardest things to make? These tend to be their favorites. Pretzel replicas of pets or detailed company logos are “time-consuming but worth it when you see how pumped [the customers] are,” says Brian. Still, the brothers enjoy every challenge, and creating diversity and art out of this simple classic has won the hearts and stomachs of many of a pretzel-lover.

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