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It’ll be time for sourdough and banana bread again soon, but if Oktoberfest is on your mind, try making homemade pretzels. Heather Reid likes to make this soft pretzel recipe with her kids, but even if you’re baking solo, it’s a fun process with a super delicious end result.
Baking with kids can be tricky: The timing can be challenging to coordinate with the attention span of a budding chef. But these soft pretzels are so fun to make with your little people because you can make it work for almost any age, ability, or interest level.
1. Do the prep work first. I’ve found that getting all the ingredients together (your mise en place, if you will) before you call the kids to the kitchen is helpful. They won’t want to wait around for you to get things out of the pantry.
2. Even if you’re a serious baker, relax. When approaching a kitchen project with kids, it’s not about the perfect result. It’s about having fun together.
3. They are excited to help, so give them jobs to do. A 5-year-old can measure and dump flour (get ready for a bit of a mess), and that’s all they want to do, while older kids might want to take on activities like tending the mixer. If your kids are into science, activating the yeast is interesting, and you can get more advanced by talking about how baking soda changes the alkalinity of the water bath and how that impacts the Maillard reaction (or browning) while the pretzels bake. Younger kids can form pretzel ‘snakes’ into unique shapes and taste the crunchy salt. There’s something for everyone.
- 1 1/2 cups warm (110° to 115° F) water
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast (2 ½ teaspoons)
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour, about 4 1/2 cups
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil or cooking spray
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel salt (for topping)
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine water, sugar, and yeast, stirring gently to combine. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour, salt, and butter. Use dough hook attachment and mix on low speed until combined. Increase to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough, wipe out the bowl and then oil it with a little vegetable oil or cooking spray. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and sit in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper or a Silpat sheet and lightly brush with vegetable oil or lightly coat with cooking spray.
3. Bring the water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. Gently whisk an egg yolk and water together and set aside.
4. While the water heats up, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a rope about 24” long (see note). Make a U-shape with the dough rope, and holding the ends, cross them over each other and press on the bottom of the U to form the shape of a pretzel. Place on the prepared half sheet pan.
5. Lower the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for about 30 seconds each, turning over with a slotted spoon about half-way through. Remove them from the water using a slotted spoon or spider, allowing excess water to drain off.
6. Brush each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
In step 4, young bakers might find this big piece of dough challenging, so adapt as necessary, into 12” or even 6” lengths. They may like to roll it out into a “snake” and then “chop” them up into 1- or 2-inch pretzel bites, which are easier to handle and fun to dip.