By Karen Gardner
Dan Wasenmiller did what many people who work for a living want to do. He opened his own business, doing what he loves.
Earlier this year, Wasenmiller opened TwisteDough, a food truck serving soft pretzels and cinnamon rolls. Already, customers are flocking to his location on U.S. 11 next to Sheetz at exit 20 off Interstate 81. By popular demand, he’s added biscuits and gravy to his menu.
Wasenmiller used to drive trucks for a living. He’d make cinnamon rolls and bring them to work. Co-workers raved over the rolls, and last fall, Wasenmiller put together a business plan. He is now the proud owner of TwisteDough. Phil and Nancy Fox are his loyal employees, who help him make the rolls and pretzels. Wasenmiller bought a bare bones food truck from a company in Richmond and had it outfitted it to make his specialty foods.
Thursdays through Sundays, from 1-9 p.m., Wasenmiller and the Foxes serve up dozens of 6-inch round, sweet-smelling cinnamon rolls, and golden, warm soft pretzels, dredged in cinnamon sugar or savory sauce, your choice. They top the cinnamon rolls with your choice of homemade buttercream icing or orange icing.
Wasenmiller uses buttermilk to make the cinnamon rolls, which gives them a special flavor. “We also use a special kind of cinnamon,” he said. “It’s hotter and sweeter, and holds its flavor better.” The cinnamon flavor is more concentrated, more intense, but not overwhelming. It’s a high-quality cinnamon, like all the ingredients Wasenmiller uses.
“We go through 800 to 1,000 pounds of flour in a week,” he said. The cinnamon rolls are made with real butter, and he creates the icing from scratch. Each roll is massive, which makes Wasenmiller proud.
“I’ve been making these rolls for about 15 to 20 years, and people would tell me I need to start my own business,” he said. The Foxes agreed to work for him, and the trio prepped for several months before opening the truck in February.
At first, the truck was located on Vineyard Road near Falling Waters, but he moved to the Spring Mills location when he got the chance, in March. Word was already spreading about his cinnamon rolls and pretzels, and customers were clamoring to try the delectable treats.
For a while, the business opened Wednesdays through Sundays, from 2 to 8 p.m., but Wasenmiller decided to cut out one day and extend the hours, as a better way to satisfy demand. “We found out overextending leads to unhappy customers,” he said.
On his days off, he’s making sure he’s got enough ingredients, and tinkering with the menu. Along with soft pretzels, he’s offering Twisty Dogs, soft pretzels wrapped around a hot dog. The hot dogs are Hebrew National, a high-quality, kosher hot dog that doesn’t skimp on flavor.
He makes a special honey-mustard sauce for the pretzels. For those who prefer cheese, he buys a cheddar cheese sauce that he says is better than what he could make. The pretzels are rolled in a mixture of baking soda and water before being baked. They’re salted and brushed with butter when they come out of the oven. Then, it’s up to the customer to choose between the savory sauces and the cinnamon sugar.
Not many places in the Eastern Panhandle sell homemade cinnamon rolls and hot, soft pretzels, also made from fresh, homemade dough. About three hours before they open, Wasenmiller and the Foxes arrive to prepare for the day’s customers. During open hours, they’re usually baking trays of rolls and pretzels, and doing whatever’s needed to keep up with customer demand.
Recently, that demand started including biscuits and gravy. Wasenmiller is also known for his buttermilk biscuits, and he serves them with sausage gravy or chipped beef. The sausage and chipped beef comes from Hoffman’s Quality Meats in Hagerstown, and is another example of Wasenmiller’s goal of serving food with high quality ingredients. To make the gravy, Wasenmiller uses a roux of butter, flour and milk, and the combination with the biscuits is superb.
By early June, Wasenmiller hopes to begin serving biscuits and gravy in the morning, while reserving the cinnamon rolls and soft pretzels for afternoon and evening hours.
Wasenmiller has worked in food service before. “I’ve been in and out of the restaurant business for a long time,” he said. He has managed restaurants and knows the ins and outs of working with the health department and ordering supplies. On an average day, TwisteDough sells about 300 cinnamon rolls and 200 pretzels.
His next goal is to add Italian bread. “We’ll put our own spin on it,” he said.