As the days get shorter, it's nice to spend time in the warm kitchen making filling, comforting foods. I was excited recently to try out a number of recipes from the cookbook Little Bites, which is all about snacks for kids. (The co-author just released another book called Feeding a Family, which I'm also excited to read.) We had such fun making the Broccoli-Cheese Pretzels. Stretchy dough is so well-suited to small hands; my kids loved rolling out the pretzels and shaping them.
Polly liked snacking on the steamed broccoli as we made the pretzels, too. We ate the pretzels as part of our dinner, in fact, paired with the black bean cakes from the same cookbook. Sometimes a few platters of healthy snacks make a great family dinner.
Many research studies have shown that the more kids help in the kitchen, the more likely they are to try new foods. The kids were excited to eat the actual pretzels they themselves rolled and shaped; above you can see Cash's 'moustache' pretzel and his 'S' shape, and Polly's circles. Below, Polly is pointing at her own pretzel after they come out of the oven. They were so delicious!
Simple Soft Pretzels with Broccoli and Cheese
Adapted from Little Bites
Though this recipe calls for yeast, it doesn't require the typical rising times for a yeasted dough, which is unusual. But it works! The pretzels are light and soft, and especially good straight from the oven. They also freeze well, after baking.
2 1/4 tsp quick rise yeast
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp sugar
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup steamed, finely chopped broccoli
1 cup grated extra-old cheddar cheese
1 egg, for brushing on top
flaky sea salt, for sprinkling on top
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, and line a baking sheet with a silpat, or parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast into the warm water and stir until dissolved. Add the salt and sugar and stir. Slowly add the flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the broccoli and cheese.
Turn the dough out on a work surface and knead with your hands until the dough comes together, about 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Pull off small pieces of dough, about the size of a golf ball, and roll each piece into a thick rope. Twist the ropes into whatever shapes you like (moustaches, 'S' shapes, or pretzels).
Arrange the shaped pretzels on the baking sheet as you go. When the dough has all been shaped, whisk the egg in a small bowl. Brush liberally on the tops of the pretzels, then sprinkle them with flaky sea salt.
Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and move the tray to the top rack. Broil the pretzels until the tops have browned; watch carefully to prevent burning. Enjoy while warm, for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks!