These soft pretzels are good, though I’m not going to pretend like they are the best soft pretzels anywhere (you know, like the ones from the stores that make thousands from selling them…), and they are the easiest homemade ones I’ve found. They are chewy and soft like a pretzel should be (not just a roll shaped like a pretzel) and straight out of the oven are fabulous.
And without any boiling or long-rise steps, they are a great kid-friendly recipe. In fact, they are so easy (and yummy) that making these with kids (of all ages) will make you their favorite ____________ (fill in the blank: mom, dad, babysitter, aunt, grandparent…). Your family will be pretty happy with the results, too. They are usually gone in a day at our house.
Since there are only a few quick ingredients to mix up and no waiting for kneading or rising, kids can move right to shaping their own pieces of dough. From there it’s another few minutes to bake and cool (a bit!) before tasting their creations.
I started making these when my kids were little as something fun to do when they had playdates. One of my friends and I organized bi-weekly play dates to give the other some time for errands and shopping and her girls surprised me by asking to make these every time they came over. Did I mention they were over once a month? And they always wanted to make the pretzels- not anything else. Same with my nieces a few years later.
And now I’m making them with my littlest niece and nephew. My 2-year-old niece enjoyed pouring in the ingredients and “patting” the dough, but was a little too young for the rolling out part.
My four-year-old nephew has it down, though, and rolled out enough dough pieces to make all the letters of his name (I helped shape them), plus more.
The kids always love the “painting” part. They brush on an egg wash and sprinkle the tops with some kosher salt.
By the way, the egg wash is crucial, I feel, to giving this simple bread dough the chewy mouth feel of a pretzel- so don’t skip this step or use butter instead. While butter tastes good, it makes the pretzel more roll-like, if you know what I mean.
The dough is pretty easy to shape and doesn’t spring back like a lot of bread doughs can. Some ideas for shapes are:
Letters (great crossover activity for preschoolers learning their letters!).
Hearts. Valentines, anyone?
Traditional pretzel shapes.
And even the “blob” for those little ones who just can’t grasp the “roll” technique yet. I always let them make whatever shape they want and help only when they ask so that they have a feeling of accomplishment.
And when they take that first bite? The pretzel tastes that much sweeter.
- 1 Tb. instant yeast
- 1-1/2 c. warm water
- 1 Tb. honey
- 1 Tb. salt (yep, a tablespoon- they're pretzels, after all!)
- 4 c. flour (I use whole wheat pastry or ½ white and ½ regular whole wheat)
- 1 egg (for wash)
- salt for sprinkling (kosher is best for the familiar "pretzel salt," but sea salt will do fine)
- Combine yeast, water, honey, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Stir in flour and mix until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl (a couple minutes). The dough should be smooth to the touch, and will stick only when pulling off pieces- as soon as you start rolling for the pretzel shape, it should not stick to your hands or surface (add just a touch more flour if you have sticking problems- I never have to, though).
- Start preheating the oven to 425 degrees.
- Pull off pieces of dough (alternately, pat dough out and cut to get more even pieces), shape into letters, hearts, pretzels, animals, etc. and place on lined or greased cookie sheets.*
- Mix the egg with a bit of water and brush all over the dough shapes, then sprinkle with some salt.
- Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
- Cool for a few minutes before taking the first fabulous bite! The leftovers (if you have any...) can be stored in an airtight container (or frozen) and reheated in an oven for few minutes before eating.