Project Pretzel

I had so much fun working on "Project Pizza" earlier this summer with my son that we decided to pick another project to play with together in the kitchen. This time around, we have Project Pretzel!  It's really chocolate brioche bread twisted into pretzel shape.  I picked it because my son loves pretzels and chocolate (of course), and I'm happy to try a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook
I've only worked with yeast twice and only in the last month or so, and both times with my little one at that!  I was thinking it's a little strange to pick these more complicated recipes to do with him but I think they're a little more interesting and allow for more hands-on experience.

I'm really excited because recently, I sense a shift in my 8-year old's previous disdain for things cooking-related. I've got my fingers crossed that it'll continue in that direction.  When I get my monthly Food Network magazine, I like to save the quizzes to go through together with him.  We get a good laugh out of it; he's really into learning about little-known food facts and trivia.  He was actually a bit obsessed with a previous issue featuring the 50 ice-creams of the 50 states.  It just goes to show that love of ice cream is a universal thing and you can always count on it to bond people together!
The little guy says it's like a "chocolate chip brain"!  How's that for appetizing. : )
Luckily, the little one is a hearty eater (particularly when it comes to desserts) and has a surprisingly sharp palate - though maybe children just generally have a keener sense of taste.  So even if he might not want to cook quite as much as mom does in the future, hopefully, we can still talk about food all the time together!

Now back to this pretzel project of ours.  I took a risk and divided the recipe in half to make 4 pretzels.  Can you even do that with yeast recipes?  I was about to find out.  And luckily, the answer is yes - at least it worked in this case (huge relief)!  I'd heard about this brioche dough being very thick, and it needs a long mixing/knead time using the stand mixer.  I'd actually read a few tales of broken mixers (that made me seriously nervous!) so I really wanted to turn the volume down and hopefully have an easier time with it. 
We were very excited when it worked!  The "brain" about doubled in size...
I'm glad we divided the recipe.  It was more manageable for the two of us to do it that way. But let me tell you something.  The mixing process for the dough?  The best word I can think of to describe it is...violent!  Seriously, the mixer is rocking and knocking like the bowl is about to fly out!  I used my large glass mixing bowl and I think the regular stainless steel might have been a better choice given how much rocking was going on.  I literally had to hold on to the bowl the whole time.  My son got a kick out of the drama, of course, and I am just happy to report that the mixer and bowl survived and all is well in the end.
After getting our hands dirty, rolling and twisting, the pretzels are ready for the oven.
I'm amazed we actually managed to make brioche and even got some of those signature long strains in the dough.  It's pretty neat for a little home project. These pretzels were really good warm from the oven and has that signature brioche flavor.  I'm admittedly not be a huge lover of brioche and while my son definitely enjoyed his creation, he probably prefers the typical salty pretzels given a choice.  The process itself was the highlight of this project.  We just had a really great time doing this project together!  My son tells me he doesn't really like to cook but he likes these kinds of projects.  Well, I'm willing to call it whatever he wants!

This specific project might be a one-time event (I can't live through the drama of that dough mixing again) but the amount of fun the little one and I had making these together, the chance to laugh and learn through it, was truly priceless.  
Apparently, the long mixing time creates the brioche strands in the dough
When I asked, my little one said he thought this project was even more fun than Project Pizza, which says a lot since I know, taste-wise, he preferred chowing down on that homemade pizza more.  I think getting the chance to roll the dough and shape the pretzel - all those steps - really made it fun for him, and definitely for me!  Plus, all that knocking and rocking of the mixer provided a lot of excitement.
We had 4 pretzels from our wee project.  The two of us enjoyed one fresh out of the oven and packed one up to bring over to his cousins (his youngest cousin was the biggest fan of it).  We saved the other two to share with Daddy.  What we had left over the next day, I refreshed by warming back up in a low oven for a few minutes.  It made a very good breakfast!


Project Pretzel started early one morning after breakfast.  First, we started slow with a little mixing and stirring.
I am fairly clueless when it comes to working with yeast.  The recipe specifies dissolving instant yeast with milk but not whether the milk needs to be warm. I looked on my packet of yeast, which said to use liquid in the 110-115 degree range and that's what I did.  I heated up the milk for a few seconds in the microwave and tested it with a thermometer. The young chef poured the milk-yeast he combined into the flour and eggs (which he cracked!).
Look - even the spatula is smiling!  (I did not do that on purpose...)
It was just the two of us at home so there are no pictures of me hanging on to my mixing bowl for dear life when it was rocking and rolling for almost ten minutes.  You'll have to trust me on that one.  

Things get a lot calmer once you switch over to the dough hook and continue working the dough on low-speed.  We had a different (much calmer) problem at this point.  Since we were working with half the recipe, the dough hook wasn't grabbing the dough so I had to stir the dough around quite a bit with a rubber spatula to get it into the hook and we needed a few extra minutes to get the dough into a smooth ball.  Here's the dough (above) after all the mixing by the stand mixer.  The chocolate chips get added at this point and once mixed, it needs to rise in a warm spot for 2 hours until about doubled in size.  Or you could plain ahead and let it rise in the fridge overnight or 24 hours.
Ironically, it was a chilly morning the day we made this so I was worried about finding a warm spot and not altogether confident the dough would rise.  I ended up putting it in the oven after I'd warmed it for a few minutes but then immediately shut down.  Happily, it worked though some of the chocolate chips started melting.  Seeing the dough expand and rise is really cool and something kids - and adults - can get excited about!
The rolling and stretching part was a lot easier than I imagined!  As you can tell, our chocolate chip pretzels are turning to plain chocolate pretzels because the chips are melting under our hands and spreading within the dough. The good news is we weren't getting too much on our hands.  I think that should you want more distant chocolate chip pretzels, letting the dough rise overnight in the refrigerator and then taking it out at room temperature to finish, might help.

As for the actual rolling, we didn't need any flour or oil on the work surface. We simply rolled the dough out lightly and lifted it up periodically to make sure it wasn't sticking.  Any broken parts can easily be mended.  We weren't going for perfection, just fun and moderate success!  It would've even been possible to make smaller, mini pretzels (had I thought of it at the time).
My son thought it was pretty cool when the pretzel shape came to life.  After I showed him how it's done, he was able to shape them himself.
He made and brushed on a bit of a salty egg wash.  Then, we let it rest about 15 minutes before brushing them again and sprinkling on some coarse sugar (we used turbinado).  The little one was disappointed we weren't sprinkling salt on top...he loves to sneak salt into his mouth given the chance. 
Finally - they were ready for the oven! We were so excited!  Luckily, they were ready in just 12 minutes and they smelled wonderfully chocolaty.
And that's our homemade chocolate "chip" brioche pretzels for you!  We let them cool a bit but dug in while they were still warm.  The outer crust is ever so slightly crisp and the flavor is distinct brioche - a bit sweet and buttery, and, in this case, all wrapped up in dark chocolate.
This was a wonderful kitchen project that I'll remember for a long time for many reasons.  A big, huge thank you to my Jalen for his hard work!  You made it really fun and I'm amazed to see all that you can do already!  : )


Recipe

Chocolate Chip Brioche Pretzels

I trust you're all familiar with Smitten Kitchen and the cookbook where this recipe comes from. Of course, I gravitated to the baking section and this recipe called out to me because of the general idea of making pretzels and the fact that it had chocolate chips in it!  I'd never done anything like it before and it seemed like an interesting challenge.

You can find this particular recipe here via The Kitch. I recommend you take a look at your instant yeast packets for instructions on what temperature your liquid should be at to activate the yeast. And as I mentioned, I divided the recipe in half, and it worked.  From my experience, I do forewarn you about those 10 minutes of mixing with the stand mixer where your mixing bowl is going to rock and knock like you've never seen it before. You must watch closely and I recommend you hang on to your mixing bowl!








   

70 comments:

  1. These chocolate pretzels look super, Monica. You have a great helper in the kitchen.

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    1. Yes, a great helper. Thanks, Angie!

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  2. I have been meaning to make these!! Yours look amazing. And I love that you shared the experience of baking them with your son!!

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    1. It's just one of those recipes with a title you can't refuse (and I'm not even a big brioche lover). It was definitely doubly good because we made it together. Fun project.

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  3. cooking with my own little one is the best thing ever sometimes. obviously that depends on the recipe (because i have to explain to her why she can't do things more than why she can at times), but it's fun to have them doing something alongside you and learning things as they go. i love you and your son's pretzel project! mixing this type of dough in a stand mixer can be rough - "violent" is an excellent word, as i have to hang on for dear life to my own mixing bowl as well - but it hasn't flown around my kitchen yet. YET. :)

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    1. Hi Shannon - my little one never really wanted to get his hands dirty and wasn't all that interested until lately and I'm so thrilled! I can't believe you have made this type of dough more than once! I think I'm scarred...not sure my mixing bowl can survive another round...but maybe it sounds/seems worse than it is? You are a brave lady! ; )

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    2. i promise you, your mixing bowl will survive, and survive well; it sounds WAY worse than i think it actually is, and those things are made to be durable. After my initial shock with the banging back and forth, i've made countless other things which make the same racket, and my mixer and its bowl are both in perfect condition. don't fear the noise! :)

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    3. Thank you for that, Shannon! I feel good knowing that from you and I won't completely write off making something like this again. I think I'll just use the stainless bowl next time and know the racket is normal. Thanks again!

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  4. I have been wanting to try this recipe for a while now! Brioche and dark chocolate... HAS to be amazing!

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    1. Hang onto your mixer bowl if you do, Marie!

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  5. So cool! These look really yummy and you can NEVER go wrong with brioche and dark chocolate. Although, I agree, brioche dough is hard on the mixer...all that butter!

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    1. It is one of those things you make and go "cool"! I never knew brioche dough was so rough on the mixer but now I do. I don't know what it is.

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  6. I always preferred sweet pretzels over salty ones. These look fantastic! Anything with chocolate chips is always fabulous in my book! :) So nice of you to bake with your son Monica. :) Great post!

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    1. I just love anything with the word "chocolate" in it. : )

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  7. Its fun to do kitchen projects with kids, my daughter was like your when she was his age but now she only has interest in eating and watching food network shows.
    I have never seen brioche pretzels, the recipe is seems quite complicated but you have done it so nicely. They look good.

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    1. That is so interesting about your daughter! I'm glad to hear it. I think we might be moving towards that direction. I just better not over-do it. I think after all, we all love to eat so there's that.

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  8. Oh these look amazing! And I just love that your guy got into the kitchen with you. We love making soft pretzels, but we've never done a chocolate version. This is a must try!

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    1. I loved sharing the experience (and it was an interesting one!) with the little one! Thanks.

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  9. Your pretzels look fantastic! And I think there are eaters and there are cooks but as long as they're interested in food then that's a good thing! :D

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    1. Thank you. I totally agree...as long as he's interested in food, I'm thrilled to share that in common with him!

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  10. Oh, that's such a nice perfect project with kids. Your little one is a great helper. The pleasure they get when they make something is amazing right...

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    1. Thank you! It feels so nice to do these projects together and learn something as well as get to eat at the end. haha

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  11. I've been wanting to make these chocolate chip pretzels from Deb's book for the longest time! And now you have got me wanting to make them even more : ) I always make classic pretzels but I need to switch it up ...

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    1. Something about the recipe does jump out at you, doesn't it? Just be warned about that mixing process...it is crazy!

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  12. YUM! They look so good! THe last photo is the cutest, haha. Will definitely be trying this!

    xx gemma @ andgeesaid.blogspot.com.au

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  13. These look ace! How fun to be able to cook with your kid, especially to work on a project that doesn't involve cake mix or pre-made cookie dough! I'm sure he will look back on this and appreciate his mom's kitchen prowess ;)

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    1. haha - you are sweet but I think he knows better than to think I have any kind of "prowess". : ) He'll likely look back and wish mom did something cool like help him build a tank or something.

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  14. Chocolate pretzels yum! These turned out great. We love homemade pretzels. Lovely!

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    1. It was fun...and I'm relieved the mixer is still standing after it.

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  15. Aw, what a fun kitchen project for the two of you! Sounds like cutting down the volume of the recipe was smart...and perhaps saved your mixer ;) I can't believe it was so violent! hehehe. I'm wishing I had one of these right now- it looks so chocolatey and delicious. Brioche is my favorite kind of roll!!

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    1. Thanks, Amy! Honestly, I don't know how much cutting down the recipe helped. I can't hardly imagine it making any more of a racket! If you love brioche, it could be worth the adventure. : )

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  16. These look so great, Monica! I do think kids have a sharper sense of taste than many adults, so it's so fun that you cook together! So glad to have found your great blog!

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    1. Hi there, Jess. Same to you about your blog! : )
      Does make sense that kids have a sharper, purer sense of taste...it's really cool the things they notice, pick up and remember. My son can often identify the chocolate maker when I give him a taste-test (assuming he's eaten it before). We are a big chocolate family here so I'm training him early...haha ; )
      Thanks for swinging by!

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  17. Awww.. it's so fun and loving to have cute little helpers in the kitchen, working their magic :)

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  18. I just found your blog, and I am looking through so many recipes! This looks so delicious, I've never made pretzels alone, let alone chocolate ones!

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    1. Aww...thanks! Glad you found this little blog. There are plenty of things I've never made either! My first pretzels too and only our my second time working with yeast. Thanks again for visiting and for leaving a comment. : )

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  19. What a fun project, they turned out great! You should try a snickerdoodle-style pretzel next time (dipped in butter and cinnamon-sugar). I've always wanted to try that! :)

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    1. Great idea. My son loves those butter-coated pretzels at the mall so I'm sure he'd be a fan. I love the almond version myself. : )

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  20. First, I am so hungry for these pretzels now! Especially the closeup shot you posted, it looks like the perfect pretzel!

    Second, I love that you guys made this together and I'm in love with the sign he made. It made me smile, thanks!

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    1. No where near perfect but thank you...it was so nice to make it with the little guy that I really didn't care what they tasted like. They were good though. : ) Thanks for noticing the sign on the bag! He decorated it with his favorite coloring pencil from the Met museum and we took our pretzel off to his little cousins. : )

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  21. Those pretzels look super legit! I've always been a little intimidated by recipes that use yeast, but I'll have to try it sometime. It's so nice that you're able to spend quality time with your son in the kitchen. Sometimes I wish my mom was more into baking so that we could do awesome baking projects together too! (:

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    1. Same here with yeast but it really does what it's supposed to do, I guess. If we (me and my 8-yr old) can do it, anyone can!

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  22. What a fun project to do with your kid. :) My kids love helping out in the kitchen too. Your chocolate pretzels look wonderful and delicious.

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  23. Awww-so loved reading this post - what an awesome way to have fun and learn and bond with your little one! The chocolate pretzel looks FANTASTIC!
    Sahshi @ http://runninsrilankan.com

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    1. Thank you for reading, Shashi! It was a fun crazy project : )

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  24. Awesome project...and glad that both of you had fun...the pretzels look great.
    Have a wonderful weekend Monica :D

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    1. Thanks, Juliana. Have a great weekend!

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  25. What a great project and the pretzels look amazing! I love the texture on them.

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    1. Thank you! The outside is a bit crisp and the inside is nice and soft - best eaten slightly warm. : )

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  26. Lovely project! The pretzels look delicious!

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  27. Brioche with chocolate chips twisted into a pretzel shape? I would LOVE this!! What a fun project with your sun!

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    1. Yes, Deb @ Smitten Kitchen is pretty genius, as we all know. Something about anything pretzel shape that is irresistible...

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  28. i adore this post, great job mummy and what a cool idea to use choc chip

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    1. Thank you! It was a fun recipe to try with the little guy. : )

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  29. I didn't know about the strands for brioche. Good to know! I've made pretzels, but just the salty kind. :) Fun project!

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    1. Deb describes how the long mixing time gives those strands in the brioche. I've also read it elsewhere but I'm no expert on it and don't eat it very often. That said, I was happy to see some strands when we pulled out pretzel apart. Anyway, it was cool to do. : )

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  30. Awww Jalen must be so proud! He gets to play with mommy and at the end what a great treat to have homemade pretzels! I'm inspired! :)

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  31. That is so great that your lil guy loves baking with you :) He must have had so much fun seeing the gorgeous outcome :) I hope one day my lil guy and I can have baking projects like these too :)
    I have never tried making homemade pretzels but you and your lil guy did an amazing job. They look perfect :)

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    1. He didn't used to like/want to much at all...there's been a nice change lately so I'm grateful! This was a fun project. He seemed very proud of his work. : )

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  32. They sound awesome! And I love that your kid is so involved with helping you bake, I loved baking with my mum when I was little :-)

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    1. How did I never say thanks for your comment! : ) Baking with the little one definitely leaves great memories and I love to come back and relive it. : )

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