Reporter joins Smales Pretzel Bakery in making heart-shaped pretzels on Valentine’s Day

The heart-shaped pretzels from Smales Pretzel Bakery in Dayton are part of a lot of Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Emma Smales, the fifth generation owner of the bakery, said the idea started about 25 to 30 years ago when her Uncle Chuck made them for some of his regular customers. It started catching on with other customers and now has evolved into the bakery making heart-shaped pretzels all day long on Feb. 14.

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Smales expects to make around 2,000 pretzels today, Feb. 14. She admitted making the hearts are a little harder than a simple twist. I joined in on the fun this morning and will agree making the heart-shaped pretzels isn’t as easy as it looks.

To make a soft pretzel, it starts with flour, water and yeast that’s mixed together for 20 to 30 minutes.

“We do use more yeast than I think people would assume because we do a quick rise,” Smales said. “They’re not sitting there for hours waiting for them to rise. It only takes about 10 minutes.”

The dough is put into a machine that pushes it out into a “noodle” and then it’s hand-twisted into a pretzel.

The pretzels sit on a rack for a few minutes before they are boiled in food grade lye (caustic soda), which makes them shiny and taste good. After that, the pretzels go into a 1960s oven that turns in a circle. After eight minutes, out pops a warm pretzel.

Rebecca Schinaman of Tipp City was picking up a pre-order of 15 pretzels on Wednesday morning. She said her family gets Smales pretzels on occasion and couldn’t resist getting the heart-shaped pretzels for Valentine’s Day.

Smales pretzels have been shared all over the world from Washington to Afghanistan.

“We love being a part of people’s history and that’s why we want to be here another 100 years,” Smales said.

Smales Pretzel Bakery, located at 210 Xenia Ave., is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, visit or the bakery’s Instagram or Facebook pages (@SmalesPretzelBakery).

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