Feeding frenzy - FamilyEducation

Feeding frenzy

September 13,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

On Sunday, L.'s friend from elementary school came over for a "hang out date" (L. informed me, make no mistake, that middle school kids do NOT have playdates). This was the first playdate/hang out date L. has had in I can't even remember how long, and I hadn't seen L.'s friend A. since 5th grade graduation in May. I was astounded how big he had grown--how he had morphed over the summer into a tall, decidedly tween looking boy instead of the more baby-faced elementary school kid I always remember. L. to me looks the same as he always has, although family and friends do tell me that he has an older look about him too. 

Anyway, it probably helps the growth process some that L.'s friend is a voracious eater. They are a study in contrasts, L. and his friend A. A. will eat almost anything and has a seemingly insatiable appetite while L., of course, will eat hardly anything, and most of the time couldn't be bothered to eat at all. In anticipation of A.'s visit I decided to mix up a batch of my favorite pizza dough recipe. A. loves pizza, and this was one of the few foods I thought would bring the two kids together, since A.'s tastes are very different from L's. But when A. showed up for the hang out date he came bearing a large cheese pizza--very kind and thoughtful of his parents, I thought.

I decided to turn the dough ball into a family favorite: soft pretzels. I posted this recipe on the FE site awhile back, but Flickr ate all my photos, and this recipe is so easy to make, and so much fun if you have a small helper like T. in the kitchen, and so perfect when you have an extra hungry kid in the house, that I thought it was certainly worth reposting.

 

Easy Soft Pretzels

As you know, if you've been following this blog for some time, L. is all about bread and, often, only bread. As a result, I'm always searching for new dough-based recipes, and always looking for ways to super-charge my existing dough recipes with flax seed, or hemp powder, or spelt so, at least, if L. is going to eat only bread, he's going to eat some really good-for-you bread.

I've made my own salt bagels before, and they are always a hit around here. But not long ago I had the brilliant, if obvious, idea that I could shape the dough differently and make pretzels, instead. You can use any basic pizza dough recipe, and super-charge it by adding flax seed, substituting hemp protein powder for up to a quarter of the flour, or just add some hemp powder on top of the flour to any basic dough recipe.

For our pretzels I used this pizza dough recipe and added a tablespoon of hemp powder before I mixed the dough for its rise cycle.

Once your dough has risen gloriously on the back of your stove while you're unloading the fifth load of laundry that morning, or trying to keep a rapidly growing middle-schooler satisfied once the pizza is polished off, pull off little balls of dough, roll with your hands into a long snake shape. Bring the two ends together and make a braid at the top. Bring the braid down, so it intersects with the bottom of your dough circle, and you have the pretzel shape. This is great for kids to do, but don't expect perfectly-shaped pretzels!

Put a big pot of water on the stove while you're shaping the pretzels. Soft pretzels, like bagels, need to be boiled before you bake.

Preheat the over to 475, too--it needs to be hot! Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Otherwise the pretzels WILL stick to your sheets!

Once you've shaped your pretzels, drop them into the pot and let them boil until they pop to the surface-about 1-2 minutes. Scoop them out and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheets. Spritz with oil and sprinkle generous amounts of coarse salt over the tops. Bake at 475 until golden brown.

Eat them while they're warm! If you do want to save them, put them in a paper bag to keep, otherwise the salt will go soggy and the pretzels will lose some of their signature crusty-doughy texture.