Friday, March 12, 2010

Do the Twist: Soft Pretzels with Cheese Dip

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I'm fortunate to have a great helper in the kitchen. Amelia loves to help, especially if it's a sweet treat we're baking.

I wanted to expand her horizons a bit by making something fun with her that wasn't so sweet. So we made soft pretzels with cheese dip. They were a huge hit with Amelia and the boys. (Mom and Dad, too, of course!)

If you've never made bread before, this is an easy way to get your feet wet. The dough is very forgiving.I have had very good success with a short, 20-minute rising and also with more than an hour rising where the dough doubles in volume. Perfect for the unpredictable life of a mom of four. I have even punched the dough down once and let it rise a second time so I could finish the job after the kids were down for a nap. It's hard to mess this one up, so don't be afraid to give it a try.

And don't be intimidated by shaping the pretzels. If you've played with play-doh, you can do this, too. And they taste the same no matter what they look like! This photo shows a floured work surface, but the recipe below specifies an unfloured work surface. We learned that it's easier to roll if you use little to no flour. (Less cleanup, too!) Start with none and add a little if the dough is sticking to the surface. 

Pretzels are a great baking project for kids. They can get really hands-on with it. Amelia loved making the pretzel shapes and watching them puff up in the boiling water.

This recipe makes one dozen good-sized pretzels, so shaping and boiling them takes about the same amount of time it takes to make a few dozen drop cookies. It's easy, it's fun, and the results are delicious!

Here's the recipe: 

Soft Pretzels
1 package yeast (1/4 oz.)
1 C. warm water (110-115 degrees)
2 TBSP. butter, softened
1 TBSP. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3/4 C. flour, divided (I like to use 1 C. whole wheat flour)
8 C. water
4 TBSP + 2 tsp. baking soda
Kosher salt

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add butter, sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour. (I like to use one all-purpose and one whole wheat.) Beat until smooth. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Either use a dough hook for a few minutes or knead by hand for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover and let rise in a warm place for at least 20 minutes or until doubled in volume.

Punch dough down and divide into 12 equal pieces. On an unfloured work surface, roll each piece into a ball. Then, roll each ball into a rope, about 15 inches long.

To form the pretzels, lift the ends of the rope so they meet in front of you and form an oval, but do not join the ends. Lift the ends and twist them around each other about 3 inches from the ends. Gently press one end into the dough at 10 o'clock and the other at 2 o'clock. Place on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled or covered with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot or deep skillet. Add baking soda to boiling water. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Drop two pretzels at a time into the water. Simmer for 30 seconds, then flip them over and continue to simmer until puffed, about 30 seconds longer.

Hint: I found it worked best to put the top side of the pretzel in the water first. That way when I flipped them over for the last 30 seconds the pretzels were face up, and I didn't have to flip them again to place them on the baking sheets.

Remove with a slotted spoon or spatula. Drain and return to your baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Note: Instead of salt you could sprinkle these with cinnamon sugar, salt and rosemary, cayenne pepper or just about any other combination of flavors you can come up with. My next batch will be cinnamon sugar!

Bake until deep golden brown, about 15 minutes. 

Serve with prepared mustard and cheese dip, below.

Cheese Dip
8 ounces Velveeta, cubed
1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, cubed
1 to 2 TBSP. milk

Combine cheese and microwave until melted, stirring occasionally. Stir in milk. Serve.

© Trippin' Mama 2010


April said...

Yummy yummy! I hope Vaughn likes to cook with me when she's older ;)

Thanks so much for your encouraging words of advice! And I have totally been reding you blog archives! I got all the way through your pregnancy ones, and have just started on the ones when the boys were born. I'm not a stalker, I swear!! It's really helpful for me to read how people dealt with that first tough year with triplets. Especially yours, because we're in such similar situations with our daughters being around 2 years older, and also having no family very close.

So, thanks again! Your my 36 week hero! I'm hoping to make it there, and my doctors think I easily will!! But just like you said "my problem free pregnancy is not an easy pregnancy." But the end is in sight - tomorrow I'm 28 weeks!!!

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is too funny. My eight year old's best friends at school are triplets (well, the two boys are his friends, the girl - not so much LOL) and I am forever hearing about the homemade pretzels their mother makes after school! No joke! I am going to try your recipe very soon!