Monday, May 13, 2013

Book Launch Party!!! and Amish Soft Pretzels

It's here! It's finally here!

Saturday afternoon my husband insisted on stopping by Walmart while we were out, and look what we found on the shelves!

To celebrate the retail store release of The Prodigal Son Returns last week, I thought I'd share one of my favorite Amish recipes - Soft Pretzels.

Forget those pretzel places in the mall. They're okay if you're out and need a pretzel fix, but homemade is always better. (Do I hear an AMEN?)

Back in the day (my sons love to use that phrase), newspapers used to run recipe columns in their feature section - usually on Wednesday. When we lived in northern Indiana, the Goshen News had "Aunt Emma". Readers could request recipes, the feature writer (aka Aunt Emma) would collect them, print a selection, and then ask for people to send in recipes for next week's column.

I loved this column. Eighteen years ago I had four young children at home, and they were hungry ALL THE TIME! So I was always looking for new recipes.

And because we were in northern Indiana, many Amish and Conservative Mennonite ladies contributed their favorite recipes to the column.

This recipe is from Waneta of Goshen. Along with sharing the recipe, she added this tip for seasoning the treats: "I use the salt in the bottom of a bag of store-bought pretzels."

Thanks for the recipe, Waneta!

Soft Pretzels with Mustard Dip

Preheat your oven to 450°

1 1/2 cups water
2 Tablespoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 1/2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water (no warmer than 115°) if using regular yeast. If you use instant yeast, mix it in with the other ingredients, and then add the water. Mix well.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

What does "smooth and elastic" mean? Believe me, you'll know when you get there. The dough makes a subtle change in your hands and suddenly it's working with you instead of fighting you.

Let rise until double (about 30 minutes).

(Confession time - I forgot to let it rise, and the pretzels turned out fine.)

Gently punch the dough into a ball and divide into twelve pieces. BTW - a pastry cutter works great for this!

Take each piece and roll it into a rope about 24" long.

And if you have minions around the house (otherwise known as cute children), this is a great step for them to do!

Start slow...

...keep rolling...

...and rolling...

Wait a it getting a little too thin?

Ooops. Oh well.

Just stick it together and keep going.
Once you get the rope made, it's time to shape the pretzel.

Legend has it that the shape of the pretzel was invented by a monk to help children learn their prayers (the twisted ends symbolized the child's hands folded in prayer), but there's a lot more to pretzel history. If you're interested, here's a link to interesting pretzel history trivia.

There's a trick to making an easy twist.

First, take the two ends and cross them.

Twist them again.

Then bring the ends toward yourself and press them into the loop.

And finally, use your index fingers on each hand to extend the loops up and out to form the pretzel shape.

In the old days, pretzels were dipped into a lye bath before baking.  Yes, I know - lye sounds dangerous to me, too, so we use baking soda instead!

Dissolve 2 Tablespoons baking soda with 2 cups hot water in a shallow bowl. Once you have your pretzel shaped, dip it into the water

(Please ignore the cinnamon roll in this picture. Leftovers from Mother's Day breakfast!)

and lay it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Now is the time to season your pretzels. I like mine lightly salted, so I use regular table salt. Coarse Kosher salt is traditional, or you can leave them plain.

If you like them sweet (and without the mustard sauce!), you can wait until they're done baking, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar. Mmmm.....

Bake them for about 7 minutes at 450°, or until lightly golden brown.

And here's the Mustard Sauce:

Mix 1/2 cup plain salad dressing (aka Miracle Whip) with 2 Tablespoons prepared mustard and 2 Tablespoons sugar.

Waneta also said, "Some people prefer salsa or melted Velveeta cheese as a dip."

Or you can slice one in half and use it for a sandwich bun.

Either way, Wynter is ready for her share - 

But Maggie-cat just says, "Leave me 'lone. I'sleepin' in the sun."

IF you have leftover pretzels, you can freeze them. When you want one for a quick snack, just take one out of your freezer bag, run water over it for a second, re-salt, and then microwave. You'll have to experiment with the time...we don't usually have leftovers to freeze!


  1. Very cool! This is something I've never made! And it looks surprisingly easy. I'll have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing, Jan!

    But I have to say, it'll still be hard to resist those wonderful smelling pretzels at the mall!!

    1. My goodness. Can I use a few more exclamation points?? :)

    2. It's Monday at the Cafe! Exclamation points are mandatory!

      And these are easy. They took about an hour to make (of course, it's more if you let the dough rise...), and the fun thing is that they can be a group activity! Can't you just see a girl's sleepover and pretzels?

    3. What a great idea! I could get all kinds of toppings to put on them. They could build their own and create their own dipping sauces. :)

  2. Mmmmm. Now I have a pretzel craving. I made a huge batch once for Sunday school at Easter time and swore I'd never do it again, but this looks way easier then the recipe I used. And I appreciate the freezer tip because there would definitely be leftovers in my house! Though Simba would beg to differ.

    Love Wynter's pic. What a noble dog you have willing to taste those pretzels to make sure they are palatable for human consumption. What a trooper!

    Smug kitty isn't going to be so smug when Tucker arrives. Tee hee. Maggie needs to soak up the sunshine snoozes while she can. :-)

    And congrats on your store debut. It's such a wonderful book, Jan. I loved it to bits. When is your next one coming out?

    1. I'm hoping that smug kitty is going to work off some of her winter fat when the puppy arrives, too! She needs someone to chase around the house!

      And Wynter is a carb hound. Whenever we have pancakes, we put the leftovers on top of the fridge. When she wants one, she'll stand in the kitchen and stare up there. Of course it doesn't matter if we haven't had pancakes for six months - she's still convinced that's where we keep them!

      I'm so thrilled you liked my book! I'm waiting hear about the next one, too. You'll find out when/if it's coming out as soon as I do!

  3. Also meant to say congrats on seeing the book on the shelf!! That's such an exciting moment. And it never gets old. I'm thrilled every single time.

    1. Thanks, Missy!

      My husband is so funny. He stood in the aisle staring at it for a long time...until I figured out he was waiting for someone to stop so he could brag about me!

  4. now I'm craving pretzels too - sounds easy enough but dunno 'bout yeast - don't have any luck with yeast. :-( and making more than one pretzel would be dangerous for me.

    well ya'll Saturday was the day for me. Kayla went downhill fast after vet visit Thurs and when I got home from work Fri night she had given up. I called a place I'd foundonline that would do inhome euthanasia - no luck getting a callback. Made a pallet near her on another dog bed and tried to sleep but neither of us slept. she was so out of it she didn't move a single inch and her breathing varied so much - finally I called an emergency clinic early Sat morning and asked if I should risk her more pain to load in the car or what - was pretty hysterical at that point and trying not to be - she mentioned another place so I called and ws set for 2 pm still worrying she'd suffer that long. she called back about 30 min later and her other appts understood and told her to rescheudle them so she came out at 11 and by noon or so it was done with. my other dog knew and wouldn't step around or over kayla - usually she walks wherever she wants and if you're in the way just tough. so sad but there was no choice my only regret is I couldnt' get her help that night without risking her even more pain. this vet took one look and told me to let her be since she looked comfortable said she didnt' need ot examine her or anything she could tell. there's peace in it but I'd been perfectly to have gone through my entire like with just her and sasha.

    anyways sorry but I know ya'll have gotten all my fears about this for hte last couple of years.luckily a friend came to be with me and I hung with her and her husband or just her til bedtime then worked yesterday so no one would have their mother's day plans messed up plus I needed my mind occupied.

    this might be my first yeast recipe I try after the last fiascos! I tried pretzels al ong time ago but it was a weird recipe - had to boil them and needless to say terrible!


    1. Susanna, I'm so very sorry. I know how painful and traumatic that can be. But Kayla is running around happy and healthy in heaven, now. You did the right thing.

      I'll be praying for comfort.

    2. I hate saying goodbye to a dog, but it's one of the duties we take on when we decide to bring a dog into our lives.

      It sounds like her end was peaceful, though. At home, with you, she was able to just go to sleep.

      And go ahead and try the pretzels! My mom was always scared of yeast, too. It never worked for her, until she found one recipe that turned out fabulous - and that's the only yeast bread recipe she ever made :)

  5. Sigh. It is posts like these that make me miss wheat!

    Isn't it funny how people can be scared of fish and yeast. But it is easy.

    Peace, Julie

    1. I wonder if they could be made with rice flour - but I think they really need the gluten to be chewy.

      Sorry, Julie.

  6. thanks ya'll - I knew when I got the dogs this day would eventually come but somehow it doesn't seem possible/real but like I told my brother(he said he turned down another dog after my email about Kayla) that I'd have missed out on some of the best 12 yrs of my life if I hadn't gotten her plus she was already born and would have lived without me. just got back from a new dog park - took Sasha. we haven't done dog parks the last couple of years except rarely since it was so hard on Kayla getting in and out of hte car(and on me too!) but Sasha walked around and mostly plopped down on the ground and just rested and looked around. didn't bother me since I wanted to sit as well! was gonna take her to Petsmart but I have to make some other stops and it's warm today so she'd get too hot.

    1. How sweet to pamper Sasha. She'll be missing her buddy, too.

  7. HOOORAY!!!!! I love seeing a book on the shelf!! Nothing like it!!!

    And we've made pretzels but ours are NOT as pretty. And I always boiled them in the baking soda water. Maybe I should try the dipping? It sounds like an easier step.

    MMMM. Now I want a big pretzel!

    P.S. I love Wynter's name. :)

    1. Boiling the pretzels would be so hard/messy/complicated, it makes me shudder! Especially since dipping works so well.

      Wynter's name was my daughter's idea (8 years ago). The local meteorologist and his wife had just had a baby and named her Wynter. And yes, my daughter and I are weather geeks. I admit it :)

  8. Susanna, so sorry to hear this! A dear friend of mine just lost her long-time companion dog and she's carrying a heavy heart.

    She shared with me the other day that she saw a cartoon that really touched her:

    First square is a young boy playing with his dog and under it says 'best friends'.
    The second square is the boy, as a teen, sad without his dog.
    The last square is an older man entering heaven and a dog bounding out to greet him. It says, underneath, "There you are!"

    I've never had a dog and am not really a dog person, but I did have a very special kitty once. Praying for your comfort. You made Kayla's life full of love.

  9. Jan, my firstborn arrived on a day in February that we had a freak snowstorm. I desperately wanted to name her 'Nieves' which means snow in Spanish. It's actually a fairly common name.

    Hubby wouldn't hear of it. He has a weird made-up name and never wanted his kids to have to spell/re-spell/use a nickname with their names like he's had to do.

    1. He has a point.

      We went out of our way to name our children normal names, spelled normally - just before everyone and their mum decided to use weird spellings to make their child different. So now even Jacob has to spell his name for people!

      My daughter has always complained that she's the only child in the family without a biblical name. When we point out that she has a great family name from BOTH sides of the family, it doesn't make her any happier.

      So how can parents win? How do we know which names will be acceptable and which won't in twenty years?

  10. Thanks for sharing this recipe! =)
    It looks great!

  11. Yummy...pretzels! I doubt if any would survive to be frozen, to be honest! (Guess I'm taking a page out of Missy's comments today--using exclamation points everywhere! *wink* That last one was definitely deliberate, LOL.)

    I taught our d-i-law a couple years ago to use yeast (although I hadn't used it in a few years). Now we're making homemade pizza dough almost every week and it tastes better than store-bought or most pizzeria places. Of course, that's with our son's "doctoring" of the crust. ;-)

    I'll have to try these sometime though. They look sooo good!

    What's next-best to seeing a friend's book on the shelves at Wal-Mart? Receiving it in the mail because you won it on another author's blog! :D

    (BTW, re names... I hated my while growing up--always mispronounced or misspelled. Then our daughter--Shawna--didn't like her name until she read the children's book "Chrysanthemum"; now she's glad she has an unusual name because it's not like everyone else's. And she's an artist-of-sorts--using her talent for church and for teaching her kids--and they're always different!)


  12. I am so late to the party! This is awesome, Jan, and THE BOOK!!!! I'm so excited for you and can't wait to get my little hands on copies to give away... and one to READ!!!! YAHOO!

    We love making pretzels. It's just down home fun and the kids love eating them. We've done letters of the alphabet and that makes it a rounded edu experience....

    Ginny, you boiled them... and that gives them a more bagel-like consistency when they're done. So a different outcome.

    Have a cold. Not sleeping. I am not pretty at the moment! But anxious to get back to my WIP. It's been missing me. Jan, thank you for this!