My Sis: Pooping Machine to Pretzel Baker


This is Alexis. My 10-year-old sister/mini-me.

 She was born when I was almost 15, so I watched this girl grow from a pooping machine–to a tattle tale–to a little baker and craft addict that she is today.

Once a month I invite her over to spend the night for some sisterly bonding. We dine out, take her to do some fun kid activity (this time we chose dodge ball trampolining) and bake.

In the past when “we’ve” baked together, I would demonstrate how to measure flour or to beat an egg properly, but she’d lose interest and end up in the living room to make “crafts”–taping long pieces of paper together with one of my wrapped tampons on the end–as a toy for our cat. (Yes it’s weird. But tampons are the cat’s fave and there’s no stopping her.) To see what I mean, see figures 1-3.

Figure 1: Alexis finishing up kitty's tampon toy. Kitty, to the left, watching from afar.

Figure 2: Tampon toy close up, already disheveled with bite marks.

Figure 3: Tampon toy in action, kitty lurking in the shadows.

So… I gave up trying to bake with Alexis and instead supported her “craft making” as a hobby. (Thankfully, she took up knitting and made a nice scarf for the cat instead.)

But this last visit, something suddenly changed. She insisted that we make soft pretzels and coffee cream brownies, and that “we have to go to the store now to get flour, butter and whipping cream, and chocolate chips, and and and…”

Well excuuuuuse me, little missy. But being the amazing big sister that I am, I complied. Yes, I was skeptical that once we got in the kitchen history would repeat itself. I gave it a chance because my mom told me that Alexis recently baked an apple pie all by herself, and my dad said that she has been baking so much that with his gallbladder issues he can’t possibly eat everything she makes–so he was forced to put a stop to it.

And thankfully, they were right! Phew. Alexis dominated the kitchen and those pretzels. She recently discovered baking tutorials on YouTube, which revived her interest for baking. Apparently watching her big sis give a baking tutorial IN PERSON doesn’t cut it. Oh well.

Now that she’s an independent baker, I just need to get her trained on cleaning up a mess…

Homemade Soft Pretzels

This recipe is from Alton Brown, Food Network, and got 5 star reviews: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/homemade-soft-pretzels-recipe/index.html

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Pretzel salt (We used Fleur de Sel)

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.

Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

The dough just after mixing.

The dough after it has risen 50 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

It might seem like a lot of baking soda...because it is.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 to 12 equal pieces.

Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.

Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Freaking. Yum.

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