Dreaming of Oktoberfest food year-round? You don’t actually have to wait for fall to enjoy the soft, salty star of Germany’s famous festival. Soft pretzels can be surprisingly easy to make any time at home. And, bonus: They might be a great baking project to do with kids.
Of course, as almost anyone who’s ever tried a kitchen project with kids knows, baking with little ones can be tricky. Coordinating the timing of rising, kneading, and baking with the attention span of budding chefs (plus the prospect of getting flour everywhere) might make you want to make soft pretzels solo.
(That’s OK, too — this recipe could be easy to pull together all by yourself.)
Still, the delight on your kids’ faces when they dig into a crisp-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside homemade soft pretzel might be worth a slightly messy kitchen.
Here’s how to make world-class soft pretzels on your own or with wee helpers.
You’ve gathered your crew of mini-chefs. Now, how do you whip up something yummy (rather than whip yourself into a frenzy of frustration)? Here’s how:
1. Do the prep work first. It’s helpful to gather all the ingredients together (your mise en place, if you will) before you call the kids to the kitchen. They won’t want to wait around while you rummage stuff out of the pantry.
2. Even if you’re a serious baker, take a deep breath. When approaching a kitchen project with kids, it’s not about the perfect result. It’s about having fun together.
3. Kids are excited to help, so put ’em to work! Little ones as young as toddlers can measure and dump flour (yes, it might get messy), as well as press the buttons on the oven to turn it on and set the timer. Plus, forming pretzel “snakes” into unique shapes can be irresistible to kids of any age.
Older kids, on the other hand, might want to take on more challenging activities like tending the mixer. Or, if they’re into science, activating the yeast may be an interesting experiment. You can also get more advanced by talking about how baking soda changes the alkalinity of the water bath, or how that helps the pretzels brown as they bake.
There’s something for almost everyone — just give some thought ahead of time to which age-appropriate jobs your helpers can tackle.
Sure, soft pretzels can taste amazing without adornment, but there’s almost nothing like dunking bready pieces in delicious dipping sauce. Kids and grown-ups may argue over dipping into these sauces:
- lightly-warmed hazelnut spread
- a simple cheese sauce (try this vegan one!)
- your favorite mustard
- warmed peanut butter or jam
- ranch dressing
Or, if you’re not the dunking type, try dusting your finished pretzels with cinnamon-sugar, an everything bagel seasoning, or poppy seed.
- half-sheet pans/cookie trays
- Silpat sheets or parchment paper for lining pans
- stand mixer with dough hook
- an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan for boiling pretzels
- slotted spoon
Is that the oompah of a polka we hear? To create your own Oktoberfest snack at home, set aside some time for these classic, salt-flecked soft pretzels. (Accompanying beer stein optional for grown-ups, plus maybe an Almdudler for the kids.)
- 1 1/2 cups warm water, about 110 to 115°F (43 to 46°C)
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour
- 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 let sit in a warm place for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size.
2. Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). 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 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 inches long. 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.
Note: Young bakers might find this big piece of dough challenging, so adapt as necessary, into 12- or even 6-inch lengths. Another option is to roll it out into a “snake” and chop pieces up into 1- or 2-inch pretzel bites, which can be easier to handle and fun to dip.
5. Lower the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for about 30 seconds each, turning over with a slotted spoon about halfway through. Remove from the water using the slotted spoon, 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.