I’m only in the beginning stages, which is code for: I’m wobbly. I’ve been paying particular attention to the yeasted cakes (I’m a sucker for everyday pastries), and while the cakes are simple enough that I’m pretty sure I’m doing them correctly, they’re different enough that I’m not exactly sure how I feel about them. This is a good thing (my middle name is Pollyanna): it means I’m stepping outside my box. Thrills!
It’s quite the process, determining if a recipe works. Do we prefer it fresh, or is it better the second day? Do my kids turn up their noses, or do they request the item for a snack? Does my husband voluntarily take it in his lunch? If I set the cake stand on the table, will people help themselves to cake for breakfast? When the cake plate is empty, does anyone ask if there is more hidden in a cupboard somewhere?
I didn’t need any of those tests for the cinnamon pretzels. Right off, they were an enormous hit.
The pretzels taste like a cross between animal crackers, graham crackers, biscotti, and peppernuts. They are mild, faintly sweet, and crunchy. They’d made a perfect snack for toddlers, but—warning—adults are incapable of keeping their hands off them.
It might seem tedious, having to shape all those pretzels, but it was actually quite low-key and mess-free. While my younger two kids practiced carols for their Christmas concert, I stood at the table-that-is-not-my-new-island (waiting, Honey, WAITING) and rolled and twisted the dough into adorable little pretzels.
For one tray, we sprinkled pearl sugar on the egg-washed pretzels to look like salt. It wasn’t Luisa’s suggestion, so my little embellishment made me feel all kitchen goddess-y, in a Germanic sort of way.
Adapted from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss.
Even though the pretzels’ utter simplicity is what makes them so beguiling, I can’t help but wonder how they’d taste with a hit of ginger, or maybe cardamom. Fabulous, probably. Also, I think whole wheat pastry flour would work well here, especially if making these a snack for little ones.
9 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon, butter
1¼ cups sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
4 eggs, divided
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pearl sugar, optional
Brown the butter over medium heat. Pour the melted butter into a mixing bowl and beat in the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Beat in three of the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour and baking powder and mix well. The dough will feel like play-dough. Refrigerate for at least an hour.
Break off ½ ounce pieces of dough. (Yes, we used a scale—dough-ball size was my younger son’s job.) Roll the dough into 10-inch long strips. (Yes, we used a ruler… in the beginning.) There is no need to use much, if any, flour. Shape the strips into pretzels (you’ll figure it out—just do it), and place the pretzels on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. The pretzels hardly rise, so there’s no need to leave much space between pretzels.
Beat the fourth egg until creamy and brush over the pretzels. Really get a nice coating—the egg gives the pretzels a delightful glossy varnish. Sprinkle with pearl sugar, if you like. (Recommend! Recommend!)
Bake the pretzels at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, or until the pretzels are golden brown. Out of the oven, let the pretzels sit on the hot trays for another couple minutes to continue crisping before transferring them to a cooling rack. Store cooled pretzels in a pretty glass jar on the counter.
This same time, years previous: 2015 garden stats and notes, meatloaf, the quotidian (11.4.13), chatty time, posing for candy, cheesy broccoli potato soup, why I’m spacey, sweet and sour lentils, and Greek yogurt.
Jennifer Jo lives with her husband John and their four children on five acres in rural Virginia where she (kinda-sorta-maybe) homeschools the kids, gardens, bakes, and reads. You can find more of her musings and lots of recipes at her web-log mamasminutia.blogspot.com.