Cooking with Kids: Soft Pretzels

Soft pretzels, yum! Maybe baking bread sounds a little complicated, maybe you need a break from baking sweet treats, maybe you want to try something new. Whatever the reason, this recipe for soft pretzels is fairly simple in ingredients, and a great opportunity to get small hands busy and make something tasty!
This recipe should make 8 larger soft pretzels, and does require time for the dough to rise, so make sure to keep those points in mind before you get started!

While working on your pretzels or waiting for your dough to rise, talk about and consider:

  • Fractions with measuring cups and spoons.
  • Making another batch to experiment with skipping the baking soda bath to see if the pretzels really brown less while baking.
  • Why yeast is necessary and how it works. Without the sugar and warm water, the yeast wouldn't work! For more information on yeast, see this great resource from King Arthur Flour.
  • How it's easier to dissolve things, like baking soda, in hot water rather than cold. Try both as an experiment!
  • What other toppings you could add to your pretzels instead of salt. Cheese sprinkled on top before baking, cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on after you brushed on the butter...

Tools:

  • a mixing bowl
  • a second, lightly greased bowl for rising, use oil, or whatever you have, to grease the bowl
  • a mixer or large spoon for mixing ingredients
  • a baking sheet lightly greased or lined with parchment paper
  • baking pan, like a 9x9 cake pan, or a ceramic bowl with a flatter bottom (you will be giving your unbaked pretzels a "bath" using this)
  • cooks or pastry brush, if you plan to brush your pretzels with butter

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt (table salt, or anything you have that's relatively fine)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 7/8 to 1 cup warm water (use more in the winter, less in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall; your goal is a soft dough)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (optional)
  1. Add the bread flour, table salt, sugar, instant yeast, and warm water to your mixing bowl and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough by hand for 5-8 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and elastic. Sprinkle your dough with additional flour as you knead if it is too sticky.
  2. Transfer your dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, a damp towel, or something similar, and let it rise for 30 minutes. 
  3. While the dough is rising, boil your water and combine one cup with the 2 tablespoons of baking soda, stirring until the soda is dissolved or nearly dissolved. Pour the mixture into a baking pan, such as a 9x9 cake pan, or ceramic bowl with a flat bottom, and set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm or cooler.
  4. Preheat your oven to 475°F and prepare a baking sheet by lightly greasing it with oil or lining with parchment paper.
  5. After your dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly greased work surface and divide it into 8 equal pieces and leave them to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  6. Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (28-30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Place the shaped dough into the water and baking soda mixture, up to four pretzels at a time, spooning the water over their tops. Leave them in the water for 2 minutes, and then place them on your baking sheet. The baking soda bath helps create the golden-brown color they receive while baking.
  7. With all the pretzels on your baking sheet, sprinkle them with course salt (optional), and allow them to rest again, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  8. Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until golden-brown. While baking, you can melt your butter (optional).
  9. Remove your pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter (optional). Use all the butter; it may seem like a lot, but it's going to make these pretzels very tasty! Eat warm, or enjoy later by reheating them in an oven or microwave.

This recipe was first published on King Arthur Flour's website, and you can find it here. You can also find directions on how to make your dough with a bread machine or food processor, if you would like.

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