My 10-year-old daughter asked me if I could make soft pretzels with her the other day. Ummm, heck yes — I didn’t even need to think about how much I already love fresh, hot, soft pretzels.
We had everything we needed except proper pretzel salt, and I was excited she wanted to learn. I’m so used to doing all the things on my own in the kitchen, but recently it’s been nice having her show interest in cooking. We gathered all the ingredients and got to work.
I chose rapid-rise yeast, which probably cut out a few minutes of waiting instead of using regular, active-dry yeast. We put it in a bowl with warm water and sugar until the mixture bubbled. After we added salt and flour, we kneaded it by hand, the old-fashioned way.
You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I’d left mine at the summer arts camp where I’ve been teaching, so I had to break out the big guns and put in a little muscle action.
My mini-me did a great job, but she gave up a few minutes before the gluten had fully developed in the full seven minutes of kneading necessary. We added a little extra flour because our dough was slightly sticky after two minutes of manipulation.
Once we achieved a smooth ball of dough that no longer stuck to us, we oiled a bowl and placed it in there, covered it with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot (on the counter over top of the running dishwasher — works like a charm!) to let it double in size for about an hour.
Next, we punched down our dough, cut it into eight equal parts and rolled each into a “snake” approximately 20 inches in length. After that, we had a few minutes of proper pretzel twisting, followed by a free-for-all of different shapes because, well, we can.
My daughter likes the shapes of the pretzel creations at a national pizza chain that rhymes with ‘nominos’ and wanted to make something similar. I wanted to make bite-sized pieces, and then we just made a few other random designs. These were then placed on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, covered with plastic wrap, then allowed to rise for about 20 minutes in the same warm place as before.
When it was nearly time to boil our creations, we made sure we used a decent-sized pot, so it wouldn’t boil over when adding the baking soda to the boiling water. (Note: Add the baking soda very slowly, or it will bubble right up and over the sides of the pot.)
The next step had a few crucial things to pay close attention to. Each pretzel gets boiled in the water for 30 seconds on each side and no more than that. Also, when removing the pretzels, we had to make sure we used a slotted spoon to help remove as much moisture as possible before returning to the parchment paper. If they were placed on there dripping wet, they would stick to the paper after baking.
And here’s another top-secret insider tip: After baking your pretzels, let’s say — like me — you don’t have a cooking rack. I just set the pan on top of a flipped-over cupcake pan. Works like a charm.
I wanted to eat them all, but I knew we needed to share for the sake of my stomach and thighs. As soon as they were cool enough to transport, we took them to the ultimate taste-tester: my father. He had a friend in from out of town who, at this point of the evening, was “infused” with wine and ready for a snack. We all took a few bites, tried some with some amazing Dijon mustard you need to drive to North Carolina’s Outer Banks to buy in Kitty Hawk.
I’ll leave you with these three reviews, the last being from my daughter, and let you decide whether you should just continue staring at the pictures or make some pretzels for yourself.
“OMG, OH-MY-GAWWWWWD. THESE ARE SO GOOD!!! OHHHHHHH, PETRA!!!” — Wine-Infused Friend
“Nice chew. It’s like a bagel-like chewiness. Pretzel salt would be better than Kosher.’’ — Daddio
“OMG. These are so friggin’ good, I would DIE for these.’’ — Mini Me.
I didn’t even pay them to say that.