Yeast, water and flour come together to form a soft, versatile dough. The base is like any other gluttonous bread mix, kneaded and proofed—but the magic happens when the dough is hand-rolled into the iconic pretzel shape and dipped into a lye bath. When baked, it’s transformed into something magnificent: chewy and soft all at the same time, wrapped in a shiny dark-brown crust. A Swabian-style pretzel—beer’s number one companion.
Alexis Faraci, the owner of the Bronx Baking Co., is passionate about creating high-quality authentic Bavarian pretzels, right here in the Bronx. As a Mott Haven resident, she’s seen first-hand the ever-expanding craft beverage corner erupting in neighboring Port Morris.
“If you’re going to have a high-quality beer you should serve something authentic with it—and beer and pretzels go together like peanut butter and jelly,” she says. She notes two reasons for that happy pairing: “It’s salt. There is something nice about pairing something hoppy with something salty. And it keeps you in your seat longer, it’s a good basecoat for beer.”
The Swabian pretzel comes from the Bavarian region of southeast Germany, known for “its fat bottom and skinny arms” that allow for the pretzel to be equal parts crunchy and soft—perfect for tearing and sharing.
Faraci says she fell into pretzel making as she followed the craft beer movement and noticed that the stateside pretzel game was severely lacking. Having spent a good amount of time in Bavaria, Germany, with friends who live abroad, Faraci appreciated the baking tradition.
“In Germany pretzels and pretzel bread are served with everything,” she says. “Germans eat pretzels the way New Yorkers eat bagels; it’s something that’s just everywhere.” As a newbie to baking and pretzel making, Faraci dove headfirst into the craft of hand rolled pretzels.
Growing up in Westchester County in a family that was originally Bronx-based, Faraci knew she wanted to put down roots in the borough and open a business. She started with a small baking facility in City Island, then moved to a few other neighborhoods before finding her brand-new hub in Port Morris. It’s here that the Bronx Baking Co. has been able to expand, and where Faraci feels they have the capacity to continue to grow.
“Before, the business was growing only as quickly as I would let it,” she says. “I’m the only owner; the engine of the business is me.” Now in the new production facility, built out to fulfill her pretzel making dreams with the help of a team of Bronx-based bakers who share her knowledge and passion for pretzels, their growth is unlimited.
Often breaking the creative mold, Bronx Baking Co. currently has two traditional flavors available: the original salted, and one laden with crusty cheese, both commonly found on the streets of Germany. They also offer two less-traditional “American” offerings: an “everything” pretzel (dipped in the classic bagel seasoning mix of poppy seeds, caraway, onion, garlic, salt and sesame) and bacon. The bacon pretzel is a nod to 2013, “when bacon was having a moment,” according to Faraci. It’s wrapped in a single piece of bacon, perfectly crispy and full of bacony flavor without being too greasy to handle.
“We riff on the pretzel a lot,” she says. “I mean, it’s the only thing we do. We do it really well, we put all of our time and energy and focus into it, but it’s all based on a really traditional German recipe and very traditional methods—and the taste is significantly different than a New York street pretzel,” says Faraci.
Off the market, Faraci is known to make some wild creations, including lye-dipped croissant ice cream sandwich and pretzel-dough calzones. Ever the experimenter, she’s hoping to perfect new additions for their wholesale menu. But the base is tried and true, translated from a collection of old German recipes, perfected through trial and error.
In New York City, carts line the streets offering stale, steamed, machine-made “New York” pretzels, a food item that barely resembles their namesake. “Part of growing the Bronx Baking Co. is to educate people about what a high-quality pretzel is,” she says, noting that most of their costumers find them through word of mouth and the bakery’s attention to quality and consistency.
Now more than ever, the demand is growing. “We’re talking about the craft beer movement, people are putting a lot of energy and thought into brewing great beer,” she says. “Their customers really appreciate it and are becoming beer connoisseurs.”
Currently, Bronx Baking Co. products can be found at beer halls and gardens in Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as our Bronx-based beer hot spots: Gun Hill Brewery, The Bronx Brewery and The Bronx Beer Hall.
Running a Bronx-based business is a lifelong dream come into fruition for Faraci, and she hopes to continue to grow and expand in the borough she calls home.