If you had a cook, what would you have her make? What labor- or time-intensive dishes do you love but don’t have the energy or time to make from scratch yourself?
My answer is easy – soft pretzels are my favorite treat. I love to buy them at Sam’s Club, or at the mall. To make at home, they are more work than your usual snack, but so delicious!
I have a house helper who comes three times a week for a few hours, and spends most of her time cooking. She makes a double batch of these pretzels at least once a week! The kids love to help, too.
1 tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour*
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons baking soda in 6 cups water
*I substitute about 1 cup whole wheat flour.
In a bowl, dissolve yeast in water. add 1 1/2 c. flour, the oil, and the sugar. Beat for about 3 minutes to make a smooth batter. Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny (about 5 minutes) adding flour as needed to prevent sticking. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top, and cover and let rise until double (1 hour).
Punch down dough, turn out onto a floured board, and divide into 12 pieces. Shape each into a smooth ball by gently kneading. Then roll each into a smooth rope about 18 inches long, and twist into a pretzel shape. Place slightly apart on a greased baking sheet, turning loose ends underneath. Let rise, uncovered, until puffy (about 25 minutes).
The kids love to help shape the dough. Maggie makes animals and spells words with it.
Meanwhile, in a 3-qt stainless steel or enameled pan (not aluminum) bring soda water to a boil, adjust water to keep water boiling gently. With a slotted spatula, lower 1 pretzel at a time into pan. Let simmer for 10 seconds on each side, then lift from water, drain briefly on spatula, and return to baking sheet. Let dry briefly, then sprinkle with coarse salt and let stand uncovered.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes (I cooked mine for 9 1/2, so watch them) or until golden brown. Transfer to racks, serve warm with butter, mustard or cream cheese. Or let cool completely, wrap airtight, and freeze. Microwave frozen pretzel for about 30 seconds to reheat.