On Saturday Miss T was, of course, not in school and we needed something fun to do – at home. Remember, I was waiting for a day to spend at home from last weekend. This weekend turned out head and shoulders above the last in the hanging out at home department. We discussed baking something and remembered some kids cookbooks she’d been given when she was a little girl, by her great-great Aunt Esther.
Aunt Esther has always had great taste and today even at the age of 97 still shows her proficiencies at having excellent style. She didn’t give just any children’s cookbook she gave Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty keen on WS when it comes to kitchen stuff and these cookbooks geared towards kids are on the mark. The first is titled “Kids Baking” and the other “Kids Cooking”.
While discussing what to bake, Miss T remembered a pretzel recipe we’d always thought of trying but had never taken the time to make. We quickly pulled out the baking book and found the recipe. Salted, soft pretzels are one of her favorite things. You know, when you go to the mall there are certain vendors offering soft pretzels and the aroma of the fresh-baked yeast dough is pulling you in for a snack. When you arrive there are pretzels flavored in many ways. Buttered, salted, unsalted, cinnamon sugared, or sprinkled with parmesan cheese. When shopping, it is imperative that we make a stop for one of these hot, soft, snacks to tide us over until dinner.
We had fun on one more than one count making the pretzels on Saturday. I enjoyed the chance to teach Miss T how important it is to make sure the water temperature is perfect so as not to kill the yeast, showing her how to knead the dough, not to mention the conversation that flowed between us. We laughed at rolling out the ropes of dough and likened it to playing with play-doh. We were especially tickled when “dad” came in to watch us form the pretzel shapes and give us his knowledge of how we should twist them. What knowledge? He was quick to flip on a video of the time we visited the Sturgis Pretzel House in Lititz, Pennsylvania one summer. They were the first commercial pretzel bakery in the United States. They began baking pretzels commercially in 1861. Unlike us, the tour guides are trained to roll, shape, flip and twist the pretzels in a rapid manner. By the time “dad” found the video, turned it on and said, “Look see, they flip it”, we were more than half way through shaping our pretzels in our own way. We merely laughed! Our family time was unrivaled and we all enjoyed sharing a laugh.
The pretzels were fantastic. Right out of the oven, all yeasty smelling and toasty, golden brown. We couldn’t wait to tear one apart and bite right into the slightly crisp, salted outside and let the inside melt in our mouths. We shared one, then dad retrieved the mustard from the frig and we shared another. They were lip-smacking delicious. Before too long Miss T was eating another fresh out of the oven and adoring hubby and I shared one with an icy cold brew. Now that’s the way to end a Saturday afternoon – family style!
This recipe comes to you from the Williams-Sonoma “Kids Baking” Cookbook.
3 cups all-purpose flour – plus extra for kneading
1 package rapid rise yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup warm water (between 115* & 125*)
3 tbsp. vegetable oil – plus 3 tsp.
2 tbsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. coarse Salt
In a large bowl mix together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour the warm water and 3 tblsp. vegetable oil in to the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until a rough, shaggy dough forms.
Sprinkle a work surface with a little flour and dump the dough onto the surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes , until it is smooth and no longer sticky. Flour your hands and the work surface with more flour as needed to prevent sticking.
Gather the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl that has been oiled with 1 tbsp. of oil. Turn the dough ball to coat it in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot and let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.
Oil 2 baking sheets with the remaining oil. Turn the risen dough out onto a clean work surface and press it lightly to deflate. Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces with a knife.
Work one piece of dough at a time and keep the others covered with plastic wrap to prevent drying out. Using the palms of your hands roll the dough into a rope about 20″ long. Repeat with remaining pieces. Add flour only if dough is sticking.
Twist each rope into a pretzel by making an oval about 3 inches wide. At the top of the oval wist the rope together twice. Bring the ends of the rope to the bottom of the oval so that the twist is in the middle. Press down the ends so the dough sticks. Divide the pretzels evenly between the 2 prepared baking sheets. Cover the pretzels loosely with plastic wrap. Set the baking sheets in a warm spot and let them rise for about 20 minutes, until puffed and doubled in size. While the pretzels are rising preheat the oven to 450*.
Fill a large saucepan two-thirds full of water and stir in baking soda. Bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat. Remove the wrap from the pretzels and using a slotted spoon, lift a pretzel from the baking sheet and carefully slip in into the water. Boil for about 30 seconds, until it floats to the surface. Turn the pretzel over and boil for 30 more seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove the pretzel and return it to the baking sheet. Repeat until all pretzels have been boiled. Place them about 2″ apart on the baking sheets.
Sprinkle each pretzel with a big pinch of coarse salt. Bake one sheet at a time for about 15 minutes, until they are deep golden brown. Remove from oven and place on racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining pretzels. Tip: Miss T suggested that we bake half as directed and spread melted butter on the second half before baking. The ones with the butter were undoubtedly the best! Way to go “T”.