This is the main "Pretzel Class" article, laying out the pre-baking day activities, and how to bring it all together on the last day.
Find the original recipe here, or my latest version, which uses a cold bath in place of boiling, here. If you go that route, the "boiling station" becomes a "soaking station"
Prior to pretzel baking day, have the children do the following, if possible:
Pretzel Baking Day
Everything you need to
take with you to the classroom, and the steps for turning the dough into
pretzels. Includes exploration of wheat and yeast, and how they are
used to make bread.
ready to "punch down" at the right time in the class discussion; for a
nice touch for the kids, use some home-ground flour in place of some of
the regular flour, so you can tell them that it's in there.
- dough knife
- silicon mats for rolling dough on
- measuring cup
- 2 Tbs baking soda
- slotted spoon
- cooking spray-oil
- 3 baking sheets
- 2 cooling racks
- parchment paper
- pretzel salt
- 2 timers
- hot pads
- paper towels
- oven, such as a portable convection oven, and baking sheets that fit in it.
- bowl of rising dough, timed to complete first rise as the class discussion starts; over-proofing some is ok here.
- a slice of regular bread
- a flour tortilla
- the "yeast buddy" from the yeast experiment
- a small bowl of flour, preferably including some that the kids made themselves, and a small cup of water, for making a demo dough ball
- sprouted wheat
- wheat life-cycle photo
- an already-made pretzel
- the bowl of pretzel dough
- access to the "stations", described below, for demonstrating pretzel baking steps.
making the pretzels, gather the kids. This discussion will tie together
all of the activities the kids have been doing leading to baking day,
and show them how to do the pretzels.
- Remind the kids how
they crushed grain and sifted it to make flour. Show them the wheat life
cycle photo and the sprouts, demonstrating that the grain is also
- Put some flour (preferably what they have made) into a
bowl, add water, and knead into a small ball. They will be surprised to
see the powder turn into a springy, stretchy ball.
them a flour tortilla, explaining that it is made of dough. Show them a
slice of bread, and that the difference between the flat tortilla and
soft bread is the holes.
- Show them that you can make a balloon out of the small dough ball, by shaping it.
- Talk with them about the yeast experiment, where the yeast in a water bottle eat sugar and blow up a balloon.
them how they think you could get all those little holes into the
bread. Hint about the yeast, if someone has not already guessed (someone
guessed immediately today). If necessary, explain that if you put the
yeast into the dough, they will blow it up, making the holes they can
see in the bread, and that the yeast will also blow up the pretzels.
them the pretzel dough, in a large bowl, puffed from its first rise.
Tell them this is the dough you made for them to make pretzels out of,
and that it is already puffed up. Make sure that everyone is watching.
Slap the top, and let them see it sink to less than half the size.
Usually they find this pretty cool.
- Show them a sample pretzel,
if you have one, and say they will be making one today. Demonstrate
rolling the rope, twisting the pretzel, boiling, and salting it.
Steps (Set up stations before the discussion):
1. Dough Station:
Using the dough knife, cut dough into enough pieces for your class, up
to 32 pieces. Place them on a sheet of parchment, on a cookie sheet. Get each child a piece of dough, after they wash their hands.
2. Shaping station: Set up tables with silicon mats, a ruler, and a copy of the pretzel-shaping
chart, below. If the mats are large, two children may share a mat. I
like to have room for four kids to work at once, with two helper moms.
child will roll a long rope. Use the ruler to make sure ropes are about
15", and use "pretzel shape" picture for shaping steps.
kids may mash the pretzels, or pick them up; this should be
discouraged. The moms will need to coach most of the kids on how to roll
the ropes out evenly and long. Roll the dough gently, starting with
hands together in the middle, spreading your hands apart as you roll.
For each child, cut a square of foil and indent the child's name in the
foil with a pen. Spray it with the cooking spray. Take the foil and
pretzel to the boiling station. Place any "extras" for teachers and helpers onto a parchment sheet, or sprayed foil.
3. Boiling station:
Get six cups pf water boiling in a pot or deep saute pan. I prefer a
portable induction burner. Whisk in baking soda. Next to the pot, have a
timer and a spider/large slotted spoon. Also set up a baking sheet
lined with paper towels, and a cooling rack on top. Spray the rack with
cooking spray. Have extra water nearby to replenish as it boils off.
the pretzels for 1 minute, placing up to four pretzels at a time in the
pot. If you let the kids put them in, place the pretzel on the spoon
and lower gently; don't splash the boiling water. Take care to remember
which belongs to whom. Use the slotted spoon to scoop out the pretzels
onto the rack, and have the pretzel salt ready to sprinkle on wet
pretzels. Let the kids put on the salt after watching them boil, then
place the pretzels on the named foil squares.
4. Baking Station:
Preheat a portable oven (preferably convection) to 450. Nearby, set up
a cookie sheet with cooling rack inside. Have hot pads, timer, and a
the pretzels, foil and all, onto the oven's baking sheet. Fit as many
as reasonable. Convection ovens can bake multiple trays at once. Bake
until nicely browned on top, 12 min (6 if it's a convection oven). You
may need to rotate the pans to get even browning. When done, use the
spatula to move pretzels to a cooling rack.
A proud 3-yr-old (mine!) holding her pretzel. the "yeast buddy
" is visible in the upper left.
A hand-sketch of the pretzel-making equipment.
Discussion props: bread, tortilla, yeast buddy, small bowl of flour and water, sprouted wheat berries, life cycle photo, risen dough, and a pretzel.
Pretzel shaping diagram, and dough shaping station.
Boiling and salting station.
A couple of the girls pose with the class's pretzels. The grain crusher/flaker
is visible to the left.