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Pumpkin Soft Pretzel Bites (and How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Puree)

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Freshman year in high school I took a class called Public Speaking.  It was and still is a requirement at my old high school.  It was a class that taught technique and skill over content.  So therefore, we had a lot of freedom to deliver speeches about whatever we wanted.  We had to deliver a “How to” speech and I quickly settled “How to Make Soft Pretzels.”  I was super fired up about this speech!  I had an awesome soft pretzel recipe and I was pumped to share it with my class.  I made the dough ahead of time and then took all of the ingredients so I could actually show the students how to make the dough and then I used the already prepared dough (like any good cooking instructor with a time limit) to roll out the dough ropes, knot the pretzels and then I wowed the crowd by passing around some already baked soft pretzels for the students to sample.  It’s really pretty hysterical to think about now.  I wish I had a video of my speech….I bet the wow factor wasn’t quite as great as I remember it.  But boy I remember thinking that I absolutely nailed that speech!  It’s good to have confidence.

I ran across this recipe for Pumpkin Soft Pretzel Bites the other day and I couldn’t help but revisit this memory of making soft pretzels in front of a bunch of my high school peers, many of whom were older than me.  I’m such a nerd!  I suppose it was fate that I’d create a food blog and share recipes and stories just for my own enjoyment!   I can picture my hand written soft pretzel recipe and the three ring binder in which it was housed with a few of the other specialties that I learned in Home Ec (Snickerdoodles, Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Balls — some real classics).  I’m hoping I stumble across that gem…if so, I promise some pictures and recipes.

IMG_4156This Pumpkin Soft Pretzel recipe looked amazing to me, but the reviews  were a little shoddy so I had to read through a bunch of the suggestions in the reply section and I came up with my own plan to adapt the recipe based on recommendations — less water, add pumpkin pie spice, etc. etc.  It was a labor of love last Saturday morning but they turned out great, especially right out of the oven!  The dough is very easy to make, but it must sit for an hour to rise so plan accordingly.  My girls enjoyed rolling the dough and using a pizza cutter to cut the ropes into bite sized pieces (and they had fun — albeit mixed with some frustration– trying to twist the ropes into pretzel shapes).  We tried both a kosher salt topping and a cinnamon sugar topping.   The kids preferred the cinnamon sugar topped pretzel bites but I liked the salt topped bites (the dough is pumpkin-y and sweet so I liked the savory and sweet combo).  Take a nice lazy weekend day and hit the kitchen with your dry yeast and your kids and have fun making a snack that both of you will love.

Kosher Salt Topping

Kosher Salt Topping

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

Pumpkin Soft Pretzel Bites (Makes 60-70 bites)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups warm water

2 tsp salt

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (see below for how to make homemade)

5 Tbsp sugar (plus extra for cinnamon sugar topping)

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon (plus extra for cinnamon sugar topping)

1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

5 1/2 cups all purpose flour

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup baking soda

1 egg yolk

cinnamon sugar topping and/or pretzel salt topping (can use coarse kosher salt)

Directions:

Combine the warm water and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top.  Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes.  Add the pumpkin puree, sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, flour and melted butter.  Using the dough attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.  If dough is too wet, add another 1/4 cup flour.  Change to medium speed for about 5 minutes until the dough is smooth (feel free to take the dough out of the mixer and hand knead it on a smooth flour-covered surface until smooth).  Place the dough in a glass bowl oiled with vegetable oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.

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Divide the dough into pieces and roll out into long ropes.  Use sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut rope into 1 inch pieces.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Using a large sauce pan, fill with water.  Bring the water to a boil and then add the baking soda (it may bubble up so add slowly). Place pretzel dough pieces into the boiling water for 30 seconds each.  Remove from the water using a flat spatula.  Place pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Beat one egg yolk.  Brush the top of each pretzel bite with the beaten egg yolk.  Top with either a cinnamon sugar mixture (1:2 ratio) or pretzel salt (coarse kosher salt will work).  [Both toppings are great — I tended to like the salty topping with the sweetness of the dough.]  Bake until golden brown in color, approximately 8-9 minutes.  Serve immediately.

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Recipe adapted from Kirbie’s Cravings which adapted from Alton Brown.

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE PUMPKIN PUREE:

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Cut a pie pumpkin in half horizontally and clean out seeds.  Lay cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Add a 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan.  Roast at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until you can poke a knife easily through the entire pumpkin.  Remove from oven, scoop out the softened pumpkin flesh and puree in food processor until smooth. One pie pumpkin will yield 6-8 cups of pumpkin puree and it freezes well!

Technique from Tricia Wheeler of The Seasoned Farmhouse

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