Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Honest Pretzels

Last week in the midst of some pre-retreat excitement, I had the privilege of cooking with one of my favorite food-enthusiasts. He may only reach to my sternum, but in sheer excitement for the kitchen, he is a giant. I speak of Saul Vielmetti, the boy who gives me hope for the palate of the next generation.

While pesto is among Saul's favorite foods (and mine) we were cooking with my far less-adventurous-eater son, Ian, and so together we made Honest Pretzels.
Ian and Saul man-handling (aka kneading) the dough while Fiona (paw to the left) experiments with the gravity properties of flour...

How do you tell an "Honest" pretzel from a "Dishonest" pretzel? Beats the hell out of me. But that was the title of the recipe from the terrific kid's cooking book of the same name authored by Molly Katzan (yes, that Molly Katzan. Now that she isn't churning out Moosewood cookbooks, she is cooking with the height-challenged set).

We already own Pretend Soup, her first and most simple kid's cookbook (a gift for Ian from Saul--see how he is spreading the gospel of good eating among his friends?) and we obtained Honest Pretzels from the library. Pretend Soup is to credit for (re) introducing Ian to beans (bean and cheese quesadillas), getting him to try a banana for the first time in 3 years (the title recipe, pretend soup) and encouraging Ian to sound excited about vegetables (his actual consumption of vegetables lags behind his enthusiasm for reading recipes about them, but hopefully the gap will close over time).

Honest Pretzels
is intended for ages 8 and up and is a bit more challenging, both in how the recipes are written (more words, fewer pictures) and in the techniques and coordination required. But with adult help handling the dangerous stuff (knives, ovens, boiling water, etc.) the recipes are quite do-able. And Ian and Saul are (allow me to brag a bit here) both incredible readers who can read the whole book cover to cover. (Ok, now that I've exhibited some of that insufferable parent pride I'll try to keep it under wraps for the rest of this entry.)

First we mixed up a simple bread dough in the food processor, turned it out on the counter top and, (after yet another hand-washing necessitated by my children's fondness for nose picking) allowed the kids to finish the kneading process.
While the dough proofed, there was a break for wrestling/train playing/general mayhem among the short folks, and a flour containment project for me.

An hour later we reconvened in the freshly swept kitchen and started the shaping process. We started with the conventional pretzel shape and then got creative. There was a snail (Saul's mom, Deb), a little person (Debbie Sobeloff, another adult friend attending the dough festivities), some misshapen blobs (Fiona), and two "A"s from Ian and Saul since it is a letter that is in both of their names.

After shaping, the pretzels get boiled for about a minute in a big pot of water, the same preparation as a bagel undergoes. We discovered that pretzels made of one piece of dough (a circle, the snail) survived the immersion bath far better than those pieced together out of little pieces of dough. My teddy bear pretzel lost a few appendages in his bath.

Then the boiled dough was placed on a baking sheet, sprayed with water (to make them crusty rather than squishy) and baked for 20 minutes. Half way through I pulled them out and spritzed them with water again (the kids got to do the initial spraying which, much to my surprise, mostly landed on the dough). We decided not to sprinkle them with salt. Despite my love of most foods saline, I don't quite trust my kids with moderating the salt flow to an edible quantity--if the salt was approached even remotely how they approached the flour, we'd be stuck dumping the finished product out for the birds to consume.
There were a wide array of shapes from which to choose.

The finished warm pretzels made a fine (vegetable free) lunch. Ian and Saul decided to dip theirs in peanut butter, the grown ups enjoyed them smeared with the goat cheese Deb brought with her, and Fiona discovered that cream cheese is a fine interactive art medium:
We'll definitely be making these again, though next time I'll try to sneak in a little whole wheat flour. The unfortunate facet of cooking with two excellent readers is they can tell when you "cheat" the recipe a bit.


Edward Vielmetti said...

Thanks Kate! Great pictures.

We have been reading your copy of Salad People every night and I am sure that before too long there are going to be some recipes from that in our kitchen.

Anonymous said...

This was completely delightful! As Saul's school teacher (yep, that's Kindergarten in Burns Park School of Ann Arbor Public) it's fun to peek in on his cooking-with-friends part of life. Thanks to Deborah for sharing this with me. I'm headed to the book store for these, grandsons Yeshua & Otus will be here soon (Saul will meet Yeshua, but I doubt they'll be cooking together). Happy Weekend, Kathie Weinmann