12 Facts About Auntie Anne's Pretzels

23kelly, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
23kelly, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The buttery, hand-rolled soft pretzels at Auntie Anne's are a food-court favorite, but here are some not-so-well-known facts about the pretzel chain, which has been around since 1988.

1. AUNTIE ANNE WAS NOT A GERMAN BAKER, REGARDLESS OF WHAT THE INTERNET SAYS.

Robyn Lee, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

There’s a rumor floating around that Auntie Anne’s name is Anne Gerschwitz and that she was a renowned baker in Hannover, Germany, who fled to Philadelphia after World War II started. This is not true.

2. THE REAL AUNTIE ANNE WAS BORN INTO AN AMISH FAMILY.

"Like, horse-and-buggy Amish," Anne Beiler said of her parents. When she was 3, her family became Amish Mennonite—meaning they could have a car and electricity for basic needs—and she grew up on a small farm with her seven brothers and sisters in Lancaster County, Penn.

3. ANNE ONLY HAD AN 8TH GRADE EDUCATION.

"In the Amish culture, you go through 8th grade and then you quit school," Anne explained last year. "I just wanted to get married and have a family like my mom and dad did." She married at age 19, and much later, at 50, she went back and got her GED.

4. SHE HAD JUST $25 TO HER NAME WHEN SHE MOVED BACK TO PENNSYLVANIA.

According to her biography, Beiler, her husband Jonas, and her two daughters had no plan for when they moved from Texas—which they'd called home since early in their marriage—back to Pennsylvania in 1987. "Everything we owned was in that truck!" she wrote in Twist of Faith. "I was 39 years old, without life insurance policies or a plan for retirement. In the way of cash, after taking out the money we would need for gas and meals on our journey, we had an astronomical $25 left."

5. THE NAME AUNTIE ANNE'S WAS A NO-BRAINER.

Anne had 30 nieces and nephews, after all.

6. AUNTIE ANNE'S WAS STARTED WITH A $6000 INVESTMENT.

In 1988, Anne bought a storefront at a farmer’s market in Downingtown, Penn., that had been selling pretzels and ice cream. The set-up with the ovens and mixers was there; she just needed to perfect the recipe.

7. THE FIRST "TRAVEL LOCATION" WAS IN ANOTHER "PENN."

While you’ve probably visited an Auntie Anne’s at travel hubs like airport terminals and train stations, the first storefront at a train station was at New York’s Penn Station in June 1995. The next month, they went international, starting with Jakarta, Indonesia.

8. SHAQ IS A BIG FAN.

The former NBA all-star’s franchise group, O’Neal Enterprises, signed on for multiple storefronts in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Detroit area.

9. THE BEILERS RETIRED FROM THE PRETZEL BUSINESS TO BUILD A COMMUNITY COUNSELING CENTER.

Anne and Jonas Beiler, YouTube

In 2005, Anne and Jonas sold the company to his second cousin, Sam Beiler (who was a long-time employee), and used some of their fortune to build a new home for the Family Resource and Counseling Center in Lancaster, Penn., which Jonas had founded in 1992.

10. ODDLY, THE RELIGIOUS BEILERS DID NOT ADD THE HALO TO THE AUNTIE ANNE'S LOGO.

Anne and Jonas Beiler were both raised Mennonite, and in her book Twist of Faith, Anne talks about how God helped her through a family tragedy and helped her build Auntie Anne’s. But the halo over the pretzel in the company’s logo was introduced in 2006 after Sam Beiler initiated a redesign and rebranding.

11. THERE ARE WAY MORE TOPPING OPTIONS THAT CINNAMON AND SUGAR.

One of the most popular pretzels Auntie Anne’s sells in Singapore is seaweed-flavored. The Saudi Arabia location comes with dates, and the U.K. offers a banana pretzel.

12. AUNTIE ANNE'S HAS PRETZEL-MAKING CONTESTS AT THEIR CONVENTIONS.

And their employees are fast! This defending champion can roll a pretzel in 3.5 seconds.

The Most Popular Christmas Cookie in Each State

Jen Tepp/iStock via Getty Images
Jen Tepp/iStock via Getty Images

While opinions about peppermint bark, reindeer corn, and other Christmas candies are important enough to warrant a map of their own, we all know that the real crown jewel of any kitchen counter during the holidays is an enormous platter of homemade cookies.

In a festive endeavor to guess which type of cookie is most likely to be on your counter this Christmas, General Mills collected search data from BettyCrocker.com, Pillsbury.com, and Tablespoon.com, and created a map that shows which recipes are clicked most often in each state.

Those universally adored Hershey Kiss-topped peanut butter cookies, known on Betty Crocker’s website as Classic Peanut Butter Blossoms, took the top spot in seven states, including Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Kentucky, Nevada, South Carolina, and Wyoming. And people don’t just love peanut butter in blossom form—Easy Peanut Butter Cookie Cups, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Cookies, and 2-Ingredient PB-Chocolate Truffles also made appearances on the list.

general mills christmas cookies map
General Mills

Peanut butter treats are definitely a popular choice among holiday bakers in general, and cookie decorators are likely responsible for the prevalence of plain old sugar cookies across the nation. Sugar Cookie Cutouts, Easy Spritz Cookies, and Easy Italian Christmas Cookies all offer a deliciously blank slate for your artistic aspirations.

Apart from peanut butter- and plain sugar-based desserts, the rest of the results were pretty scattered. Iowa most often opts for the figure eight-shaped Swedish Kringla, while Michigan loves a good jam-filled Polish Kolaczki. Surprisingly, Hawaii was the only state to choose gingerbread cookies as their seasonal favorite.

If you’re thinking classic chocolate chip cookies are suspiciously absent from this map altogether, you have great dessert-related detective skills: General Mills decided to omit them from the study, since they’re Betty Crocker’s most-searched cookie recipe all year long, and they would’ve dominated in a staggering 22 states.

Whether you’re looking for a new show-stopping cookie recipe or just wondering how your long-standing family traditions compare to others’, you can read more on the study—and see all the recipes in full—here.

[h/t General Mills]

Why Do Fruitcakes Last So Long?

iStock
iStock

Fruitcake is a shelf-stable food unlike any other. One Ohio family has kept the same fruitcake uneaten (except for periodic taste tests) since it was baked in 1878. In Antarctica, a century-old fruitcake discovered in artifacts left by explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s 1910 expedition remains “almost edible,” according to the researchers who found it. So what is it that makes fruitcake so freakishly hardy?

It comes down to the ingredients. Fruitcake is notoriously dense. Unlike almost any other cake, it’s packed chock-full of already-preserved foods, like dried and candied nuts and fruit. All those dry ingredients don’t give microorganisms enough moisture to reproduce, as Ben Chapman, a food safety specialist at North Carolina State University, explained in 2014. That keeps bacteria from developing on the cake.

Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.

In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful, bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.

If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.

The aging process is built into our traditions around fruitcakes. In Great Britain, one wedding tradition calls for the bride and groom to save the top tier of a three-tier fruitcake to eat until the christening of the couple’s first child—presumably at least a year later, if not more.

Though true fruitcake aficionados argue over exactly how long you should be marinating your fruitcake in the fridge, The Spruce says that “it's generally recommended that soaked fruitcake should be consumed within two years.” Which isn't to say that the cake couldn’t last longer, as our century-old Antarctic fruitcake proves. Honestly, it would probably taste OK if you let it sit in brandy for a few days.

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