I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a city where the soft pretzel is a source of civic pride. In Philadelphia, soft pretzels are sold by street vendors. In the rest of the country, pretzels are sold in shopping malls. In Philadelphia, soft pretzels are the shape of a fat figure 8 smushed in at the sides; in the rest of the country, they’re shaped like tidy bows. In Philadelphia, they come in one flavor — plain — and the customer squirts on yellow mustard from a plastic bottle. Elsewhere, pretzels are an abomination in flavors like asiago cheese and cinnamon sugar.
As you might sense, I have strong feelings about soft pretzels. When I go back to Philly, I often try to sneak one. I hold the warm pretzel in a brown paper sleeve and discreetly pull off pieces and put them in my mouth, so my daughter won’t see. That’s because she has celiac and can’t eat Philly pretzels, since they’re not gluten-free.
I was happy to introduce her to a new option: gluten-free soft pretzels from Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels. The Chicago-based company is allergy-aware; they bake all their products in a nut-free facility. Now they’ve added gluten-free pretzels too, made with an ancient-grain gluten-free flour mix. While they are not Philly-style soft pretzels, they’re as close as my daughter is going to get for now. She loved them. Her gluten-eating sister liked them but wasn’t as enthusiastic.
The gluten-free pretzels are available in Kim and Scott’s Cafe Twist in Chicago, plus they are sold frozen in area Whole Foods and other stores. While the pretzels are made in a facility that processes wheat, they say they take precautions to avoid cross-contamination.