It snowed here yesterday! YAY! Snow days are some of my favorite days! I love snow for its beauty and the slowed pace it brings our life. Here in the DC Metro area snow often means school is closed. What a gift to have an unexpected day to spend time together.
Another reason I love snow days is they’re a great opportunity to bake and/or cook something I might not make regularly. There’s something so comforting about being in the kitchen on a snowy day. Rain and ice were predicted for the afternoon yesterday so I decided we’d make homemade soft pretzels. The recipe is simple to make. And kids love the soft, smooth feel of the dough.
It’s fun to make some unconventional pretzel shapes!
How Kids Can Help Make Homemade Soft Pretzels
As I mentioned in my previous post about cooking with kids (you can read it here), cooking with them doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some
- Measure ingredients
- Put the dough in a bowl to rise
- Punch down the dough once it’s risen
- Cut the dough into pieces before shaping
- Roll out the dough
- Shape the pretzels (we like to make unconventional pretzel shapes!)
- Crack and separate the egg
- Brush the
pretzleswith egg wash before salting them
- Sprinkle the pretzels with salt before they go in the oven
As you can see, it looks like one pretzel didn’t get the egg wash (this is what helps then brown). But no big deal! It still tasted great!
Cooking together creates opportunities for connection, creativity
Cooking provides a great opportunity to teach a little reading, math, science, history and where our food comes from. It also offers children a chance to experience new foods. Kids are more likely to try a new food if they’re involved in the preparation.
I’ve made this recipe for years and when the girls were in preschool I made these at their school with each of their classes. Any recipe that uses yeast provides a great opportunity for a quick science lesson.
A little about yeast and how it works if you’re interested:
I typically use Red Star or Fleischman’s Active Dry Yeast. You can buy it at any grocery store or order it here. I don’t typically use what’s called rapid rise yeast but you can use it if you’d like. There are some advantages to using it. Rapid rise yeast doesn’t need to be added to warm water, so it can be added directly to the dry ingredients and it’s more quickly activated. It also makes the dough rise quicker. I personally prefer using active dry yeast because I’m used to using it and I don’t love the flavor rapid rise yeast gives bread.
Yeast is a single celled organism. It needs warm water (about 110 degrees F) to activate it and glucose (sugar, honey, etc) to feed it. While the dough is rising, the yeast feeds off the glucose molecules which creates gas molecules of carbon dioxide. These molecules of gas are what help the bread rise.
A Tasty Afternoon Snack To Share
The finished pretzels made a tasty afternoon snack. YUM! Shortly after the pretzels came out of the oven, Ellie’s friend invited her to come over and watch a movie. She enjoyed taking some of the soft pretzels we made to share!
Let us know if you make these. We love to hear from our readers!
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Adapted from Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft Pretzel recipe
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
22 ounces (or 4 1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil for dough rising bowl and baking pans
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt)
Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the warm water, stir gently with a whisk and let sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture looks frothy.
Melt the butter. Add the flour, salt and melted butter to the mixer bowl.
Using the dough hook attachment on your stand mixer, mix on low speed until the ingredients come together. Increase the speed on the mixer to medium and mix for about 5 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and looks smooth.
Turn the mixer off and remove the dough from the mixer bowl. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for an hour.
Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl. Punch down the dough.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the dough on your work surface. Divide the dough into 8-16 pieces depending on how big or small you want the pretzels to be.
Place parchment paper on two baking sheets and lightly oil it.
Set a large, wide pan (like a dutch oven or 12 inch saute pan) on the stove over medium-high heat and add 10 cups of water and the baking soda. Let the water come to a boil while you’re shaping the pretzels.
Roll out the dough into a long (8-12 inch) rope. Then form into a pretzel shape: form the rope into a heart with the ends of the dough touching the bottom of the “heart”. Twist the ends of the dough together and pinch them to the bottom of the pretzel. Place on the parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan.
Continue forming the pretzels until you’ve used all the dough.
Place the pretzels gently and carefully, one-by-one into the pan of baking soda and boiling water. After 30 seconds, remove them from the water with a flat spatula that has slots in it (allows the water to drain off as you lift the pretzel from the water). Place them back on the parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan.
Next brush them with the egg wash. Then sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
Place the pretzels in the preheated oven and bake until they’re a dark, golden brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the pretzels you made.
Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for 5-10 minutes.
We divided the dough into 12 pieces. If you would like smaller pretzels I’d recommend dividing the dough into 16 pieces.