Let’s start with this: I’m not at all above feeding my kids a box of mac and cheese, or declaring that it’s leftover night and wishing everyone good luck, or piling us all into the car to go out for ramen. But I do try to make dinner for my family with some frequency.
Do you know this nice blog called “Dinner: A Love Story“? I was just introduced to it recently. It’s all about feeding your family dinner every night and of course they have a new cookbook (who doesn’t these days?), apparently full of recipes and strategies for feeding a family of picky eaters without going crazy. I should probably get that cookbook.
But in the meantime I thought I’d share a tip of my own. One of the ways in which I manage to get dinner on the table on a regular basis is by using the term “dinner” fairly loosely. Some examples: breakfast for dinner? Sure. Sandwiches? If necessary. Tonight’s dinner? These pretzels. The girls gleefully chose their own dips (peanut butter, rhubarb jam, and applesauce), and the grown-ups had theirs with a sweet grainy mustard. I made a pot of that great turnip soup soup as well, but it was certainly the accompaniment to the pretzels and not the other way around.It’s a little time-consuming to make pretzels (you boil these in a baking-soda bath in addition to letting them rise twice), but it was a fun project to do with the girls and the resulting pretzels were very good. They have just the right combination of crispy bottom and chewy center, with a little tang that I assumed was from the rye flour, but Kim Boyce tells me is from the baking soda instead. This recipe is adapted from Boyce’s Good to the Grain cookbook, which I want to cook from front to back after having started with those Rhubarb-Strawberry Cornmeal Tarts recently.
There’s a great-looking recipe for graham crackers, do you think I’ll be able to get away with calling those dinner?Soft Rye Pretzels: Whisk 2 1/4 tsp. yeast with 1 1/2 c. warm water and 1 Tb. honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. (Of course you can also mix the ingredients in a large bowl and knead by hand.) Add 1 c. dark whole-grain rye flour, 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, and 1 Tb. kosher salt and mix again. Knead with dough hook on low speed for 8-10 minutes, adding up to 1/2 c. additional flour as needed to form a cohesive, workable dough. (Boyce says it should be “tacky” but not “sticky.”) Lightly brush a large bowl with melted butter and scrape the dough into the bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in size, then turn dough out onto your work surface and cut into 12 pieces.
Roll each piece of dough into a 17″ length with tapered ends and form into pretzels. Transfer to two baking sheets brushed with more melted butter and allow to rise for 15-20 more minutes. Meanwhile, bring 10 c. water to a boil in a wide pot. Add 1/2 c. baking soda when it boils, then poach the pretzels in batches for 30 seconds on each side. Transfer to a clean towel, pat dry, and return pretzels to the baking sheet. Sprinkle liberally with flaky salt. Bake 15-18 minutes (until the pretzels are a dark mahogany color) at 450, with your baking sheets in the top and lower thirds of the oven (switch them halfway through baking). Transfer pretzels to a rack to cool.