Four-year-old Tyler was coming to spend the day with us. I love getting myself back into the world of toddler, so I can be a pretty fun Gramma, but the idea of five hours of Walkin’ Ole Joe was maybe more than I (or my slightly arthritic “ridin’” knee) could tolerate.
So between Tyler taking everything (unbreakable) out of our pantry and setting up a “grocery store” on the couch – and balancing on and jumping off a big old exercise ball some 600 times – we made pretzels.
Now pretzels have been one of my favorite foods (along with Cheez-Its and dried apricots) for as long as I can remember. Suffice it to say that my own inner child was delighted at the idea of baking pretzels.
But reading the recipe, I figured this was going to be a lot for a toddler to do so I prepared the dough the night before. Now, you want to remember, Fellow FoodBeest, that anything that includes yeast is a little intimidating for me. This was no exception.
What It Takes to Make Pretzels
1 1/2 C warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 T sugar
2 t salt
1 package active dry yeast
4½ C all-purpose flour
2 oz unsalted butter, melted
[I completely missed this step, Fellow FoodBeest. I’m sure it would have improved both the flavor and the texture, but there you go]
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
½ C baking soda
¼ C egg whites
How You Make Pretzels
The recipe calls for the use of a stand mixer – like a Kitchen-Aid. I don’t have one of those, Fellow FoodBeest. If you do, by all means use it. It’s certainly the right tool. I used my food processor because it was what I had. Sue me.
Combine the water, sugar and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer (or in my case the food processor) and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. [And yes, the yeast on the surface really did foam.]
Then I added the flour [butter, had I had the sense to include it, would have gotten added here also] and just mixed it all in using the food processor. If you’re using a mixer, use the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Then you would change your stand mixer speed to medium and knead the dough until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. All that took me about a minute but it could take approximately 4 to 5 minutes if you use the stand mixer.
Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, (I used a separate clean bowl) cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place (no drafts – the oven is a good place) for just under an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
At this point I put the dough in the fridge overnight to wait for Tyler’s arrival. The overnight step is not necessary.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil (I sprayed them with Pam). Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. I used a large Dutch oven.
While the oven and the pan of water heat up, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.
Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch ropes (or in our case “snakes.”)
Make a U-shape with each rope/snake, cross the ends over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel (“peace sign”). Press the dough together in the middle and at the ends.
Place them onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
I then used a wire wok skimmer to place the pretzels in the water boiling with baking soda for 30 seconds – about three-at-a-time – before I took them out and returned them to the sheet pan. This step gives them their unique “pretzel” flavor.
Here’s where Tyler had the most fun. He got to “paint” the top of each pretzel with the egg white and sprinkle it with the Kosher salt.
We baked them for 14-15 minutes until they got dark golden brown in color. Ideally we would have cooled them on a rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. But Tyler couldn’t wait to taste them.
They were his lunch. Smart boy.