Plenty of pretzels have been produced here at the County Line.
Back when Jill was in elementary school, she and her friend, Holly, did a 4-H demonstration titled, "Fit To Be Tied." A purple ribbon at Stafford County 4-H Club Day had them demonstrating pretzels again for Regional 4-H Club Day. Then, they took their show on the road and demonstrated at the Kansas State Fair.
Next stop was going into business for themselves. They operated a booth at Stafford's Oktoberfest, where they sold pretzels and toppings. Holly's mom, Tami, helped them get a cart painted and equipped for business.
The girls made pretzels. I made pretzels. Tami made pretzels. We made hundreds of pretzels - maybe even upwards of a thousand.
We had a microwave in the cart, where we warmed up the homemade pretzels. Then people could choose cheese, spaghetti and other sauces for dipping.
The girls (with a little help from the moms) figured expenses and revenue. It was an eye-opening introduction to the business world. While their friends were off visiting the other Oktoberfest vendors, the girls were serving up pretzels.
With the girls moving into junior high athletics, cheerleading and assorted other activities, The Pretzel House venture was over in just one year. (That and I'm not sure we would have all survived a second go-round.)
But it's provided a lifetime of memories.
And it proved that it's not that hard to make soft pretzels. Yes, it requires an investment of a little time, but they are a hit, no matter the audience.
I recently dusted off the recipe for snack time at Vacation Bible School at our church. I offered spaghetti sauce or homemade cheese sauce to go with them. There weren't many crumbs going into the wastebasket at the end of snack time on pretzel day.
Besides being a tasty and fairly nutritious VBS snack, they have a great story to go along with them. During the early 5th Century, a German monk took a roll of dough and formed it into a shape representing folded arms in prayer.
The monks called them "pretoilas," which means "little rewards." The idea caught on quickly, and monasteries began baking "little rewards" for children who learned well.
They are reminiscent of the pretzels you buy at the mall, though these have whole wheat flour in them for some extra nutrition. You can use all-purpose flour exclusively, but it will probably take a little more flour than the recipe calls for, since whole wheat flour absorbs more of the recipe's liquid.
The recipe says to divide the dough into 24 pieces. That makes smaller pretzels than the ones you can buy at the mall. If you want the jumbo size, divide the risen dough into just 12 pieces and proceed as described. You may need to roll the "rope" longer than 18 inches for the larger version.
This is something that's fun to do with your kids or grandkids (or for a 4-H cooking meeting, Scout meeting or other kid-oriented meeting). Because they don't require a long rising time, they are an ideal way for children to begin working with yeast dough (or adults, too).
Soft Whole Wheat Pretzels1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 pkg. active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Measure warm water into large bowl. Sprinkle with yeast; stir until dissolved. Add sugar, salt and oil. Add 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 cups all-purpose flour; beat until smooth. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead dough by hand 10 minutes or with dough hook about 8 minutes.
Cover bowl; let rest 30 minutes.
For pretzels: Divide dough into 24 pieces.
Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll each into a uniform, 18-inch rope.
Brush with mixture of 1 beaten egg white and 1 tablespoon water.
Sprinkle with coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds or cinnamon and sugar.
Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheets; cool on wire rack.
Nutrition information: Divided into 24 pieces, each provides: 133 calories; 3 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrate, 0 cholesterol, 68 mg potassium, 156 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber.