{March 22, 2013}   Tasty Twists

I like to bake cakes, cupcakes, brownies and other treats, but shy away from homemade breads, rolls and other recipes that call for yeast. I don’t have the patience or confidence to bake with it.

Making soft pretzels from scratch has been on my list of new things to try since I started my 47 and fearless project. When the boys were off school one chilly day last week, we spent it in the kitchen learning to make yeast dough for pretzels.

I did some online research and chose Alton Brown’s recipe for Homemade Soft Pretzels from the Food Network website.

The boys measured the temperature of the water, waited for the yeast to foam and added the flour. “It looks like we’re making clay,” Dylan commented as small chunks of dough combined to form a ball in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

The dough looked a little dry, so we added a tablespoon of water and continued to let it knead. After a few minutes, we agreed the dough looked good and covered it to let it rise.

When we checked an hour later, the dough had not risen as much as I’d expected. Was there a problem with the yeast? Was the kitchen not warm enough? I don’t know. We forged ahead anyway.

I cut the dough into eight portions. We each rolled one into a long rope and twisted it into a traditional pretzel shape. The boys wanted to try other shapes, too, so Dylan formed a braid and Jamie made a ring and an elephant.

Now, it was time to give them a baking soda bath. I dropped each pretzel into a boiling mixture of water and baking soda for 30 seconds and placed them on parchment-line baking sheets. The boys brushed them with egg wash and sprinkled them with kosher salt.

I popped them in the oven for 6 minutes, turned the pans and switched racks after another 6 minutes, then baked them 2 more minutes until they were brown.

We could hardly wait to let them cool before tasting them. They were warm, dense and chewy. Dylan said they were as good as the frozen ones from a box (SuperPretzel). He meant it as a compliment. He dipped his first in honey-mustard, then in cinnamon-sugar, then in both. He finished every last bite.

Jamie covered his elephant pretzel with butter and cinnamon-sugar, but couldn’t eat the whole thing. I couldn’t finish mine either. They tasted good, but were too big and heavy for my tastes. I had hoped for a lighter texture.

The boys had fun and were happy with the results, so we’ll make them again. Next time, I’ll be sure the kitchen is warm enough to see if that helps the dough rise. I think we’ll divide the dough into more portions to make smaller pretzels or maybe even pretzel nuggets. And we’ll try them with cheese sauce, too.

Do you have any other suggestions for our next try? We’d love to hear from you.


et cetera