I first discovered homemade pretzels last October. Because it was National Pretzel Month (like, duh). And because I had three cute 4-year-olds at my house. What wouldn't you do for cute 4-year-olds?
And I discovered that homemade pretzels are not too hard to make. They are a quick 2-steps past making a regular old loaf of bread. I can make bread. I can make Playdough snakes. This is the skill set you need for pretzels. But bread/pretzels does not itself a dinner make. (Unless of course you're only serving 4-year-olds, in which case, you're good.) If, however, you are serving people who are not 4-year-olds, people we will, for illustration's sake, call grown men, well, you might need something more. Possibly something with meat. Or cheese. (Vegetables are still optional). You see, man does not live by bread (or pretzels) alone. And your man will probably complain if that's all your make for dinner. Or at least he will go out later and buy a burger and shake while he's at work (nope, still no vegetables).
Yet, making pretzels--while it need not be considered impossible or daunting--is not exactly a 15-minute process. So...how to make your pretzels and eat them too? In other words, how to have fun making pretzels with your kids and still wind up with a dinner to put on the table? You stuff them of course. Everyone wins. In fact, if you make enough, everyone can win the next day (or the day after that) too because these needn't be served hot and are therefore perfect for lunchboxes or snacks or meals one grabs on the go.
I made a few plain pretzels for the breadatarian among us. I also made pizza stuffed pretzels and hot dog stuffed pretzels. I was thinking today how fun a Mexican stuffed pretzel or a jam and cream cheese stuffed pretzel would be.
Here's what you do:
1. Make this recipe. Or double it.
Note: I've tried a couple of different recipes since October and I still like this one the best. However, I have learned that you can greatly reduce your baking soda bath if you wish. I cut it in half for my recipe, but some recipes just put a couple teaspoons baking soda with a a cup of water in the microwave and let it get really hot. This came out not quite exactly the same, but pretty close. And it was less hassle. So don't skip the baking soda bath, but feel free to reduce and/or nuke it.
2. Chop up whatever you plan to stuff. Unless it's something already skinny like a hot dog (or cheese stick or pepperoni stick). I chopped up my pepperoni and added shredded mozzarella cheese. I could have mixed a little sauce in, but instead we chose to dip our pretzels in sauce (easier and it doubles the fun--men and children alike love dipping).
3. Roll your dough into a long snake as your would if you were making a regular pretzel and then flatten your dough into a 2 or 3 inch wide rectangle (my "rectangles" would have displeased my geometry teacher, but they worked for pretzel-making).
4. Add the stuffing and seal the stuffing inside by pressing the dough together (perhaps with a bit of water on your fingertips).
5. Make whatever pretzel-y shape you wish. I couldn't get mine into bonafide pretzel shapes so I went for rings. The hot dogs I just made into, um, hot dog shapes.
6. Do the baking soda bath/boil.
7. Sprinkle with salt, cheese, herbs, or whatever seems appropriate for your stuffed pretzel.
8. Bake per the recipe.
Ideas for Types of Stuffings (that I have either tried or think would be great)
1. Pizza Pretzels. (Tried and true) Mozzarella and chopped pepperoni sealed in the pretzel and served with sauce for dipping. You can sprinkle some Parmesan or some Italian herbs on top.
2. Hot dogs. (Tried and true--Kip loved these) You can dip in ketchup or mustard or whatever.
3. Cooked sausages, string cheese (or any long cheese), pepperoni sticks.
4. Mexican pretzels. Chop some cheddar, olives, and peppers. Dip in sour cream or guacamole.
5. Chicken broccoli pretzels. Chop chicken and broccoli (chop it small) and mix it with some cream cheese, salt, and pepper.
6. Sweet fruit pretzels. Spread cream cheese on your "rectangle," then spread it with a good jam. Seal up, twist, and bake. Go all out and sprinkle with some chunky sugar.
7. (And while we're spreading things...) I bet you could even do a PBJ pretzel with peanut butter and jam spread on your rectangle, then sealed, twisted, and baked.