During the cold, snowy months of winter, I enjoy warming up the kitchen with homemade bread baking in the oven.Â The familiar fragrance of yeast bubbling and the aroma of soft dough rising in a bowl on the counter (or on the top of the clothes dryer when it’s tumbling a load of clothes) brings me comfort. And, there is nothing like kneading dough to relieve stress.
I’m hoping to get my grandchildren just as hooked on making bread as I am. When a few of my grandchildren were visiting recently I suggested we make some soft pretzels, a food they love.
They all thought a snack of soft pretzels sounded great, but it was ten-year-old Emily who took action.
She whisked the yeast with a bit of sugar into water and watched as the mixture bubbled, foamed and grew. She stirred in some flour. She kneaded the dough.
She shaped pretzels.
And, into the oven they went. These pretzels, unlike most soft pretzels, skip the step that involves being dropped into a pot of boiling water before baking in the oven.
While we waited for the dough to double in size, Emily made some hot cocoa.
And, before we knew it, the pretzels were ready to eat. Created by Emily and enjoyed by all, the pretzels received a thumbs-up.
This dough is the one I normally use for making a pan of focaccia. It’s a nice recipe for those who have felt intimidated by yeast dough. This is a good one to use for a first yeast experience. Hopefully, it will get you hooked on baking with yeast.
Shape and Bake Soft Pretzels
- 1Â¼ cups warm water (105 degrees F. to 115 degrees F.)
- 1Â½ teaspoons sugar
- 1Â½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1Â½ teaspoons salt
- 3Â½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Â½ teaspoon coarse salt
Pour warm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle sugar and yeast over the water. Gently whisk to mix. Let the mixture stand for about 5 minutes. If the yeast is alive, the mixture will bubble and swell and foam. If this doesnâ€™t happen, youâ€™ll need to start over with fresh yeast.
Measure flour into another bowl. Stir some of the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into the yeast mixture. Gradually add more flour until dough forms. You may not need to use all of the flour you’ve measured out. When the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and follows your spoon, place the dough onto a lightly floured (using premeasured flour from bowl) work surface. Turn the mixing bowl upside down over the dough and let it rest.
Use shortening on your clean fingers, grease a large cookie sheet and the inside of another large glass bowl. Set aside. Rub the shortening remaining on your fingers onto the inside of your hands. This will help prevent the dough from sticking to your hands when you begin kneading.
Knead dough 10 to 12 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place dough in greased bowl. Turn the ball of dough over so that greased side is facing up. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let dough rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile, place oven rack in lowest rack position. Heave oven to 450 degrees.
Gently punch dough to deflate. Place dough work surface. Cut dough into 8 equal-sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a rope about 18 inches long. Make a U shape with the rope of dough. Bring the ends of the U down toward you, give the ends a twist and tuck them under the bottom of the U. Place on cookie sheet. Let the pretzels rise about 20 minutes or until risen by half. Brush pretzels with 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake in preheated 450-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Cut and serve warm. Makes 8 pretzels.