You know pretzels and have probably eaten them in many different forms, but do you know how they’re made?
They begin with a dough, not unlike any you’ve made before, with flour, water, yeast, salt, and butter. After fermentation, to help get that tang we all love, they are shaped into the classic twist. Before they’re baked, they are dipped in a food-grade lye solution, which is responsible for the brown, shiny exterior that calls to us from a bakeshop window.
Pretzels are a staple of school lunches, but usually it’s the crunchy variety that we can buy in the store. And while those hit the spot, what could kids love more than a home-baked pretzel made with their own tiny hands? With this recipe for Soft Pretzels, you and your family can get “back-to-school ready” with a fun kitchen project.
The recipe from The Culinary Institute of America’s book “The Young Chef” calls for a baking soda solution to replace the not-so-kid-friendly lye that we use in our bakeshops. The results won’t be as shiny and dark as the professional kind, but it’s still pretzel-y.
These pretzels are shaped into classic twists, which is so fun but can be hard for those of us lacking in fine motor skills and/or patience. Luckily, a pretzel is a pretzel no matter the shape, so if you prefer, you can roll the dough into logs and then cut little bite-size pretzel nuggets. You can also make small, round rolls or bagel shapes — anything little minds can imagine!
And the variations don’t stop there. “Young Chef” author and Mark Ainsworth suggests: “Add raisins to the dough while it’s mixing, or dust the pretzels with cinnamon sugar before baking to make a great sweet pretzel.” And don’t forget the dippers! Spicy, whole grain mustard is classic, but kids might also love nut butter, melted chocolate (sweet and salty), and the mall-classic cheese sauce.
The best part of this recipe is that it can be made ahead of time and frozen (we do not expect your little student to be up baking bread at 4 a.m. like ours are). Homemade bread can get stale quickly, but you can bake and cool the pretzels, then freeze them in a resealable bag to help extend their shelf life. If you’ve made small bites, you can even put them into your kids’ lunchbox frozen, and they’ll be ready by the time they eat lunch.
Start to finish: 1 hour 55 minutes (Active: 25 minutes)
For the dough:
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3/4 cup warm (but not hot) water
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon honey
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
4 cups water
3 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse sea salt, as needed for sprinkling
Nutrition information per serving: 135 calories; 12 calories from fat; 1 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 2 mg cholesterol; 1526 mg sodium; 26 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 4 g protein.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.