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THE PERFECT PRETZEL - Q&A w/ Arman Shakarian

Homemade Pretzels at Fox N Hare Brewing Company

What attracted you to work at the Fox N Hare?

Aside from working for a local craft brewery? I wanted to pursue my passion for food/cooking/baking. Having worked in many retail and customer service positions, I felt kind of burned out. As much as I enjoy interacting with the general public, I'm most happy in an environment where I am creating something for people to enjoy.

Once the opportunity came for me to pursue a passion of mine, I had to go gung-ho to work here, regardless of where I start, my goals were clear. Find a place within the brewery/restaurant where I am most useful and can truly grow. I've never felt more at home. Like they say, "Onward and upward"

What previous experience did you have in baking?

Funny enough, I spent a year working for a ShopRite bakery (of all places, hah). Started out as just a basic packager and closer. Eventually, I was asked if I would like to train as the store baker after the baker at the time decided to move on. I love trying new things, so I went for it. Picked it up pretty quick too, felt natural.

On a daily basis, I mixed 50lbs of Muffins, 25lbs of brownies, 10lbs of scones and way too many lbs of bread (French, Italian, Baguettes).

What was the initial process for dialing in the pretzel recipe?

A lot of the genius behind the recipe and execution is thanks to our Sous Chef Christine. I had expressed an interest in doing more than dishwashing and had explained my prior ( though not incredibly extensive ) experience as a baker would be relevant.

So, Christine took me away from dishes for about a week and a half to train me on the process and techniques of making Soft Baked Beer Pretzels ( I had to contain my excitement at first). The first few days, were pretty rocky on my part. Had difficulty with shaping and rolling the dough without it breaking or tearing.

By the 4th day, the pretzels came out of the oven looking picture perfect. Not too long after that testing week, I was officially switched over to a bakers' schedule. ( couldn't be more proud of myself )

Briefly explain your process from start to finish.

Once the amount of dough is decided on for the day, I move onto getting the ingredients together for mixing. Letting the yeast do its' science thing while I get the flour ready. Part of the mixing process for the dough is incorporating Delaware Rye-Sing, where that unique flavor stems from.

Once done, the dough is covered and set aside to proof to about double its' size. From then on, it's the fun part of weighing out individual pretzel portions and forming them out into shape, briefly dipping them in a water and baking soda mixture (that's where the dough is given its' pretzel exterior) and giving them their finishing touches of our not so normal egg wash and a sprinkle of pretzel salt before they are baked off and ready to serve.

My main goal with our pretzels is to have a good textured exterior while maintaining a soft and doughy interior. ( Who doesn't love that, seriously!?)

Homemade Pretzel Dough at Fox N Hare Brewing Company
Homemade Pretzel Dough at Fox N Hare Brewing Company

Why do you only make a fixed number of pretzels each day?

The deciding factor is based on our average sales for that specific day of the week. Sometimes if we've been busier than the norm, I'll make more to make up for it.

Freshness and waste are the other factors. So many establishments have incredible amounts of food waste. We're well aware of that and have made the conscious decision to only make a set number per day, further refining the freshness of our product. I would never serve something to a guest that I myself would not eat.

What do you like most about the finished product and how does it differ from other pretzels you have had?

The fact that these pretzels are so photogenic! On a serious note though, the flavor profile that our pretzels have can't be compared to. Most soft baked pretzels are somewhat dry on the insides, but most of us overlook that fact because we love the saltiness and crispy textures.

I can have one every day ( How else would I test them? Hah. ) And my taste buds still rejoice in glee when I bite into them, Though my favorite way to have them is to rip them apart just to see the gluten strands in the bread slowly tear apart before I dip it into our beer cheese.

Homemade Pretzels at Fox N Hare Brewing Company
Homemade Pretzels at Fox N Hare Brewing Company

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