Wednesday, October 12, 2011

National Pretzel Month, I Salute You: Whole Wheat Pretzels

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

So I made pretzels once before. They were gross. And a pain in the place that should not be pained. I swore off the whole pretzel/bagel thing.

But today was my day for the co-op preschool that a few friends and I have been doing. And the book we've been using has a whole giant section on National Pretzel Month. That month, my friends, is now.  And what could possibly be more fun than making letter-shaped pretzels with 3 talkative four-year-olds? Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking: A lot of things could be more fun, like root canal surgery, for example, or studying for you SAT's. But for some reason (a reason I like to call planning preschool the night before), it sounded like an awesome idea to me.

And the craziest thing is that it was.

We had a blast. And with this recipe that I found several weeks/months ago online, we had an easy tasty blast. The recipe was very accessible and came out as a great pretzel with a slight nod to things roll-like. The sad part of this story is that I can't remember where I got the recipe and I haven't been able to find it by googling it. If it's yours, thanks a boodle and let me know so I can give you credit.

So stop being afraid of pretzels and make these. If I can do it with 3 four-year-olds and a 21-month-old hanging about, you can do it too. (Full disclosure: I made the dough before 2 of the four-year-olds arrived and after everyone did their letter pretzel, I sent them downstairs to play so I could finish off the others, though finishing only took about 5 minutes, so I would have survived either way).

For toppings you can use coarse salt of course, but we also did a cinnamon/sugar blend that was good (though not as pretty--it's the middle one posted up top). I plan to do these again around the holidays with red and green sugar dusted on. I think it would be a healthy treat at a season when they wish to subsist on cookies. I also think it would be incredibly delicious and sophisticated to coat it with large sugar granules (a la raw sugar or something like that).

Whole Wheat Pretzels
Prep time: 30 minutes
Rise time: 1 hour
Cook time: 10 minutes
Cost: $.90
(all-purpose flour: .28, whole wheat flour: .28, butter: .14, yeast: .10, baking soda: .10)

1 1/2 C warm water
1 Tbsp sugar (I used white, though I noticed several recipes online use brown and when my daughter saw the dough, she was upset and informed me that pretzels were brown)
2 tsp salt (these made for--in my opinion--an appropriately salty pretzel, but if you don't want to taste salt in your pretzel, scale it back by a teaspoon)
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat because that's what I had hanging around, but brown would work and maybe your daughter wouldn't criticize the color of your dough)
2-3 C all-purpose flour (we were definitely on the 3 C end of that range)
2 Tbsp butter, melted

To boil them in:
10 C water
2/3 C baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water
Course salt for topping or a cinnamon sugar mixture or whatever plays your song

Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl.

Add 1 1/2 C flour, salt, and melted butter. Mix. Add another cup flour and mix. Add another cup and mix. Along about now, dump it out on a floured surface and knead it. It kneads pretty easily. Knead it until it doesn't stick to you anymore, but is still soft and pliable.

Place back in bowl and cover for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 with a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (do this or regret it; they'll stick bad without it. With it, they come off like a charm).

Bring water and baking soda to a boil. Yes, it seems like a lot of baking soda, but just do it because whoever made this recipe said you must because it helps the chewy texture and I believe her. Also, as a note of my own, you want it gently boiling. If it's boiling hard, it will start to make huge mounds of baking soda bubbles.

When dough is ready, deflate it and divide into 8 portions.

Roll each into a rope (aka snake) about 12-18 inches long.

Then shape into pretzels. (Or letters or whatever. Our pretzel shapes worked much better than our letters just because they stayed shaped better in the boiling water.)

Drop one at a time into boiling water for 30 seconds. Take out with a slotted spoon and place on parchment paper.

Brush with egg/water mixture. (You could probably skip this, but we did it). Sprinkle toppings of your choice on top.

Bake 10-15 minutes, rotating pans partway through baking time.

Remove when they turn a deep golden brown. (The original recipe recommended 15-20 minutes, but that would have been too long for us. I'm beginning to wonder if our oven cooks a wee bit hot.)


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