Introduction: Turtle Pretzel Buns
I started making these with my nephew when he was a child. It was an attempt to spend quality time, have fun, and get him to try new foods. I succeeded all the way around. He is now an adult and engaged to be married. The best part of this recipe is that even though he is now a vegan, I can still make it for him. Since he will be in town this weekend, now is a good time to make some.
Step 1: Dough
1 packet dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup warm water
3 cups flour--all purpose or high gluten
1/4 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
Mix yeast, sugar, and water in a small bowl. Set aside for 15 minutes or so--until it gets a little foamy. Kids like that part--they understand that something is happening.
Dump everything--including the yeast mixture into a bowl (I cheat now and use the bread machine. Just be sure to set it to stop before baking the bread) and stir. Add more water if you need to in order to get a nice dough. If the kid adds too much water, which occasionally happened when my nephew was little, just add a bit more flour. Bread dough is very forgiving.
Dump the dough on a floured board. Play with the play-dough until the kid gets bored--which could be a while depending on the kid. If you want to teach proper kneading--flatten the dough, fold it in half, press down, turn a quarter turn and fold it again. As you knead (or just play) the dough will get stiff and harder to fold and flatten. This is a sign that you are done.
Let the dough rise for an hour or so--or until nap time is over. You can put it back in its bowl for this or just throw a kitchen towel over it on the counter.
Step 2: Shaping the Dough
Cut your dough into 6 or 8 pieces--more if you want smaller turtles.
Cut about 1/4 of the piece off and set it aside. Shape the bigger piece into a ball or a slightly oblong oval. This is the turtle's shell--make it look like you want. With the remaining dough, pinch off 4 small bits for the legs. The rest is the head. Tuck the head and legs slightly under the edge of the shell.
Put the whole thing on a baking sheet. I line my baking sheets with a silicon mat but you can lightly grease the sheet and sprinkle it with corn meal.
Finish the rest of the turtles. Don't put them too close on the baking sheet. They will be rising again.
Throw the kitchen towel over them again and let them raise until they double in size--or until the kid's nagging gets to you.
Step 3: Before You Bake
If you want that nice crispy pretzel crust you need to dip the pretzels in a baking soda wash before baking. Put a few tablespoons of baking soda in a bowl and add warm water. The measurements don't really matter. The baking soda does not all have to dissolve--another great part for a kid to do 'cause you cannot mess it up.
Carefully lift each turtle and dip him/her in the bath. If the parts fall off, put them back in place on the baking sheet. Try not to squish the dough any more than you have to. Sprinkle the wet turtles with coarse salt. Score lines on the shell with a sharp knife if you want to.
Step 4: Bake and Eat
Bake in a 325 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Watch them. Pull them out when the heads and feet start to brown. Your oven is probably different from mine.
You can eat them right away while they are still steaming or you can let them cool and serve them as sandwich buns. Slice the shell like it was a hamburger bun. Fill with peanut butter and jelly, lunch meat (unless you have become a vegan), or even a burger (veggie or regular). If you are pushing veggies on a child, you can decorate the plate with turtle food--that is lettuce, cut veggies, etc.