Even kitchen-reluctant kids, like my son, will come help with this surprisingly simple organic cooking project (I promise).
Homemade soft pretzels are way better than bought. For one thing, nothing tastes as yummy as your very own homemade pretzel. Secondly, soft pretzels can be healthier at home. You can increase the wheat flour content, add healthful herbs and spices and add less salt. Plus, there’s no raging neon cheese involved. These also pack up well in a lunch sack in place of a sandwich.
Each of these homemade pretzels has around 120 calories, so when paired with fresh fruit, they make the perfect appropriate sized snack for your child (or you).
Soft pretzel ingredients:
- 4 to 4.5 cups white organic flour – you can sub in 1 and 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
- 1 package of yeast. If you use bulk yeast like me, use 2 and 1/4 teaspoons
- 1 and 1/2 cup organic milk
- 1/4 cup organic sugar
- 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons organic olive oil
- About a tablespoon of honey
- 1 organic egg white + 1 tablespoon water
- Optional: Stuff to go on top of your pretzels such as salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, herbs, cheese, sugar and cinnamon, etc.
Make your homemade soft pretzel dough:
- Mix 1 and 1/2 cups of flour plus your yeast in a mixing bowl.
- Carefully heat milk, sugar, oil, honey and 1 teaspoon salt until warm. Not hot, it’ll kill the yeast!
- Add milk to dry ingredients and mix for 3 minutes. I used a simple mixer, but you can do this by hand too.
- Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can actually mix, using a wooden spoon. You won’t be able to mix it all in by hand.
- Turn your dough out onto a table surface and knead in any remaining flour until you have a nice smooth, somewhat stiff but still springy dough. Usually this takes about 6 to 9 minutes of kneading. Form into a nice ball.
- Lightly oil a bowl. Place your dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides. Leave your bowl in a warm, non-drafty area to rise.
Getting your soft pretzel dough shaped:
- Once dough has doubled (in about 1.5 hours) punch it down, then let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Get your baking sheets ready. Either lightly oil them or place eco-friendly parchment on them.
- Once dough has rested, roll into a long rectangle. About 16 inches long and 1/2 inch thick.
- Using a pizza cutter, slice dough into twenty 16 inch strips.
- Shape your dough (if you need help with basic pretzel shape see slideshow above). The kids at my house came up with their own, non-traditional shapes!
- Place pretzels on baking sheets and bake for about 3-4 minutes in a 475 degree oven.
Boiling your soft pretzels:
Boiling isn’t called for in all pretzel recipes, but it’s necessary if you want traditional pretzels. Boiling kick-starts the nice pretzel crust and helps your pretzel dough puff quickly and become chewy. If you don’t boil, your pretzels will be rather flat and more like bread vs. chewy pretzels.
- As you’re baking your pretzels, dissolve the 2 tablespoons salt into a big pot of boiling water.
- After baking, add semi-baked pretzels, 4 at a time or so, to your pot of boiling water. After a minute, turn each pretzel over for one more minute.
- Remove pretzels with a slotted spoon and place on a cooling rack to dry a bit.
Baking your soft pretzels:
- Place 1/2 inch apart on your baking sheets.
- Mix egg white with 1 tablespoon of water, and lightly brush on each pretzel.
- Sprinkle with salt or other topping.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven – watch near the end. Pretzels should be just golden brown.
- Cool on racks.
Eat and enjoy!
- You can add any topping as noted above – be creative.
- You can also add stuff inside your pretzels during the shaping part. You can add finely shredded cheese, Parmesan, herbs and spices, and other grains and seeds to your dough as you shape it. You may have to re-knead a bit, but then your add-ins will bake right in.
- When shaping you can go with a traditional pretzel shape or make anything you like. We braided some, made some flat and you can even use sharp cookie cutters or knives for shapes like alphabet letters, butterflies or flowers.
- You can also roll your dough around stuff. For example, when we made these, Dave put a dollop of organic peanut butter on a piece of dough and rolled it up, making a peanut butter pretzel ball.
- Cedar made some pretzels on a stick (he used toothpicks, but you could use bigger sticks).
- Try some without salt, you might be surprised at how good they still taste.
Other fun organic baking projects to try with kids: