Thursday, February 14, 2013

Soft Pretzel Hearts

I am the luckiest girl in the world, and not just because I have a cool husband and kids. I also have a super cool sister in law who comes over and makes me SOFT PRETZELS. See? I told you I was lucky! Last night we had a Girl Scout meeting and in usual form, I didn't really plan ahead all that much. It is World Thinking Day next week, so we gathered together to learn about other Girl Scouts around the world. Last year we had an International pot-luck and fashion show, this year we learned about Eastern Europe, specifically Poland and Germany.

One of the moms brought potato and cheese pirogis and homemade cabbage and sausages. Delish! We watched a little Rick Steve's Germany and were horrified when we realized that clip I chose included a bit about nude beaches. Don't worry, no "parts" were seen, just a lot of pasty European skin, which might be just as bad.

I digress.

Anyway, this recipe is so easy that if you forgot to do something for your loves, you can whip it up in no time at all. Add a little red food coloring and you can even make them pink!

Kids love to watch the yeast bloom in the warm water and help add the ingredients to the mixer. Rolling out pretzels is as fun as playing with play-doh and adding the baking soda to the boiling water is a science experiment in itself. All in all, any day of the week, making pretzels is easy, fun and a great way to teach math and science. And they are delicious with nutella. If that isn't reason enough to make these, I don't know what is.

Soft German Pretzels

1/2 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon dry yeast (1 packet)
4 Tablespoons melted butter
2 teaspoons honey (or sugar)
4 1/2 cups flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
10 cups boiling water
1 1/4 cups baking soda (1/2 cup for every 2 quarts of water)

In a small bowl stir yeast and 1/2 cup warm water together. Let stand until it bubbles. Mix in the melted butter and the honey. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine 4 1/2 cups of flour with the 1 cup of warm water, kosher salt and yeast  mix. Knead at medium speed until the flour is evenly moistened, about 2 minutes. Increase the speed to high and knead until a smooth, elastic dough forms around the hook, about 8 minutes. (You can also do this part completely by hand, in about the same amount of time. You may end up with a slightly more dense pretzel, but it will taste the same.)

Transfer the dough to a buttered bowl. Coat the top of the dough with extra butter or olive oil.  Cover loosely with a dry kitchen towel and let rise for one hour.

(During that hour come back here and poke around! Like Downton Abbey? Me too. Planning a birthday party? I have some ideas. Oh, you want to talk about serious stuff? Ok, how about this, this, or this? Done reading? Go check your pretzels!)

Cut the dough into 16 even pieces (or eight, if you want the nice, large ones). On an unfloured surface, roll each ball of dough into an 18 inch long rope, tapeing them slightly at both ends. To shape each pretzel, form the rope into a U-shape. Cross the ends over each other twice to form a twist, then bring the ends to the bottom of the U and press the tips onto it. Arrange the pretzels on a baking sheet lines with parchment (or oil) and let stand, uncovered for 5 minutes. 

Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. SLOWLY add in baking soda. With a large flat spatula gently slide in each pretzel individually. Let the pretzel sit in boiling water for 15 seconds on each side. Scoop out and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes. 

Enjoy with mustard, that nacho cheese stuff that no one on earth should actually eat, but is so perfect with pretzels, it's hard not to or nutella. Plain is ok in a pinch, too. 

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