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SPOTLIGHT : Auntie Anne’s Soft Pretzels Are Bagel’s Twisted Kin

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Kin to the bagel is the pretzel, differentiated by its twisty shape, but little else.

Traditionally, the dough is about the same; high-gluten flour, a touch of malt (most bagels today have no malt), salt, yeast and, yes, a bit of sugar. This last ingredient, incidentally, does not belong in a traditional bagel but finds its way into modern versions.

And, yes, a true pretzel is also supposed to be boiled before baking (as is a true bagel), a practice nearly lost.

If you want a hard pretzel, buy a box of malty, palm-sized Snyder’s of Hanover (Pa.). I’m practically addicted to them, and I have the carpet crumbs to prove it.

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Soft pretzels, the kind you buy with mustard at county fairs and such, have a new champion in the name of Auntie Anne’s, a hot mall franchise.

The franchise was founded by Anne Beiler, a woman who runs, believe it or not, a Pretzel University in a place called Gap, Pa. These aren’t boiled, but they are delicious. Owner Bob Meyer of the Fashion Island franchise bakes his dough at 600 degrees Fahrenheit for around six minutes, then dips it in butter for extra richness.

Some of the best flavors are Glazin’ Raisin, sesame seed and garlic, but they are all soft, chewy, hot and habit-forming.

Praise Auntie Anne, and pass the mustard, please.

Auntie Anne’s, 1043 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach. (714) 721-1255. Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Also in the Brea Mall, Mall of Orange and Westminster Mall. Pretzels: $1.58 to $1.86 each. (Prices may vary according to location.)

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