I always have these romantic notions of cooking and baking with my children. Of all of us really getting into it, and laughing together as we make a fine old mess. Of me not worrying about the final results and just going with the flow. Of my kids really learning something from me about how to prepare food. But here’s what really happens. My kids get over-excited and start fighting over who gets to do what. I try to show how to do it and they don’t really listen because they are goofing around. I start to get a little annoyed when they don’t do it the way I told them, and I try to take over. They get annoyed that I am taking over and push their way in and I take a deep breath and tell myself to relax and let them do it. Then they lose interest and I find myself alone in the kitchen, finishing up whatever we started and finally enjoying myself. Of course, that means I have to do all the clean-up too.
If you enjoy cooking with your kids, I say you’re lucky. I suppose it’s because mine are 6 and 4 and in huge competition with each other these days, but it rarely goes well. One kid at a time and it’s much more manageable and fun, but they usually both want to take part and that’s when the wheels fall off. And just wait until the baby is old enough and wants to partake of the festivities. Then I might really lose my mind! Still, I do it every so often and I hold onto the hope that someday we will all be old enough and mature enough to cook together and enjoy it. Until then, there’s always a big glass of wine to see me through the chaos.
Making these pretzels was no exception. My kids had been asking me to make these for months, and I thought it might be fun. I found what looked to be a good recipe HERE and I liked that the pretzels were smaller in size, for snacking. So I made up the dough in the morning, and after I put the little one down to nap, we all put on our aprons and got started. I had high hopes for this go round, I even put on some music with the idea that we would be having such a great time, dancing around the kitchen and shaping pretzels. I should have known better. Things started deteriorating almost from the get-go, with the kids fighting over who got to stand on the step-stool. Nevertheless, I persevered and got them working well together, and although the whole process was extremely wearing on my nerves, my children seemed to enjoy themselves.
The Results: And I am glad to tell you that even though I can’t eat the final results, they were well worth the insanity. I had a little taste of my daughter’s pretzel warm from the oven and it was fantastic. Chewy, soft, and with that mall-pretzel taste. Which I now realize comes in part from boiling the shaped pretzels in water and baking soda before baking. Oddly, it’s the baking soda that gives it much of that tangy flavour. The dough was fun to work with and my kids had a blast making shapes other than the typical pretzels. And the whole process, albeit messy, was actually quite easy.
My only changes to the recipe were to sub in whole wheat flour for half of the all-purpose (my small nod to health) and to sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top. Sesame bagels and pretzels have always been my favourite and I thought the seeds might add a little something to these treats. And I think I was spot on, in this case. The sesame seeds add both looks and flavour to the final product.
1 ½ cups warm water (110F to 115F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast (1 envelope)
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
⅔ cup baking soda
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine warm water, sugar and salt. Sprinkle yeast over and let sit for five minutes. Add the flour and butter and mix on low until well-combined. Increase speed to medium and knead the bread 5 minutes. Dough should be smooth and pull away from the sides of the bowl. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until it pulls away from the sides.
With greased hands, form dough into a large ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450F and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Divide dough into 16 even pieces. Roll out on a lightly floured surface into long ropes and form into pretzels.
In a large saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a rolling boil. Place 3 to 4 pretzels in water for 30 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels.
Brush pretzels with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and salt. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.