Between holidays, snow days, sick days, furlough days, spring break and, this year, accreditation days – some months it seems like the kids are home more than they’re at school. Every once in a while, this is a welcome entry on our calendar. With busy weekends that don’t allow for lazy mornings, we’ll happily take that opportunity to stay in pajamas until noon!
But this year it seems like we’ve had more than our usual share of days at home to entertain kiddos (sometimes while also trying to get some work done). While my kids are finally at that age where they can think of activities and play on their own, there are still those moments we all dread hearing: mom, I’m boooorred. (you know exactly how that sounds from a five year old, right?)
On a recent long hiatus from school, before they could even think about being bored, I decided we would bake! We cook together often but, to be honest, I just forget to bake. Pathetic, I know. I actually really enjoy baking, and certainly eating baked items, but I don’t think I’m very good at it so I need fail-proof recipes.
I had the perfect idea to give my son something to smile about. As a self-identified pretzel expert, I knew homemade pretzels would make him happy.
And boy did they! We had a late snack while the dough rose so our tasty little pretzel pillows and some ham became dinner. Guess who went to bed with a bit of a tummy ache from eating too many pretzels? Yep. Though he claims they were worth it.
Our recipe is from my friend Michelle’s cookbook The Whole Family Cookbook and it’s perfect for getting the kids involved. We haven’t used her cookbook in a while so I forgot how much my kids love that she breaks out the instructions by age appropriateness. Makes it super easy for them to know what they’re ready to help with.
Ok, ready? Enjoy!
1 package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
Vegetable oil, for bowl
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk, with a splash of water
Coarse sea salt
Measure yeast, brown sugar and warm water. Combine them in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for approximately 5 minutes, or until foamy.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and add to the yeast mixture. Stir to combine.
Add salt and all-purpose flour to the bowl.
Use a dough hook on your mixer, or a wooden spoon, to slowly stir the ingredients together until well combined. Once the flour is incorporated, add the whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until it is mixed well.
Now you can turn up the speed on your mixer and continue until the dough clumps together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Remove the dough from the bowl, and massage it with your hands into the shape of a ball.
Pour some vegetable oil on a clean cloth and rub the insides of a medium bowl. Put the dough ball inside the bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for up to an hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray two or three baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or wipe them with vegetable oil.
Bring 10 cups of water and baking soda to a boil.
Meanwhile, prepare your dough. Divide the dough into 8 equally sized pieces. Roll each piece into a rope approximately 12″ to 18″ long. Cut dough rope into little pieces, each approximately 1″ long.
Using a slotted spoon, add 15 to 20 dough pieces to the boiling water at a time. Boil briefly, about 30 seconds. Pretzel bites will rise to the surface when they’re ready to be scooped out of the pot.
Gently transfer the pieces to the prepared baking trays, making sure they aren’t touching. Repeat until all your dough is prepared.
Place yolk and splash of water in a small bowl and stir to combine. Using a pastry brush, paint each of the pretzel pillows with the yolk mixture.
Sprinkle sea salt on pretzel pillows, if desired.
Bake on the center rack for about 10 minutes. They are done when they are golden brown (could take up to 16 minutes). Allow the pretzels to cool before serving.