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A few months ago, my boys had an idea to hold our own version of a Food Network Challenge/Throwdown competition.

First let me explain…since the very first time my boys saw a food competition on Food Network, they have been obsessed with the idea. They see know reason why any one of us couldn’t compete…and win...any Food Network Challenge event.

Cirque du Soleil Arrangements cast from Molten Sugar?

Sure, Mom! Let’s do it!

Six Foot Tall Carved Fruit Sculptures?

Awesome, Mom! Where do we keep the good knives?

Scale models of the Seven Wonders of the World carved from cake?

Yes! Mom…I think we’re gonna need more eggs, for this one!

Throwdown with Bobby Flay for any reason whatsoever?

C’mon Mom! We’ve got this one!

I can’t help but admire their confidence and enthusiasm.

It is because of said enthusiasm that I usually do my best to avoid their frequent Challenge/Throwdown requests. The boys are awfully ambitious, but they are kids…kids that lose interest long before the clean-up occurs.

So when they mentioned a Soft Pretzel Challenge? It all sounded so reasonable. I was kind of taken aback at the sheer non-magnitude of it all.

Of course we could do a Pretzel Challenge! Pretzels are fun! Pretzels are quick! Pretzels are easy!

Son #3 LOVES Drewpy!

Last weekend, we invited my BFF Maggie & her daughter Drewpy to join us. I mean, what is a competition without competitors, right?

Once our competitors and ingredients were in place, I took a few minutes to go all Food-Dork on them, explaining a little of the food science behind the ingredients and how they work together.  As you can see, they are riveted with my explanations.

Most of them were, anyway. After suffering through tolerating listening attentively to my explanation of leavening agents, they partnered up, and got to work.

Maggie and I were very careful to let the kids do their own measuring and mixing–this was their challenge, after all.

I’d be lying if I told you that no ingredients were spilled during this exercise. Much flour hit the floor. Much.

Once all the mixing and kneading, and spraying of flour was accomplished, it was time to shape the pretzels. Most of the kiddos employed the direct route to creating shapes for their pretzels.

At this point, we heard someone exclaim, Eww! It feels like an udder! Like I’m milking a cow! As if any of us has a cow in need of milking for which we make the children do the labor.

But since we all know that Son #2 marches to a different drummer, he took another route. What can I say? When the kid’s got a vision, he will complete it.

Son #2 created an Angry Bird template by grabbing a Sharpie & piece of parchment to use as tracing paper. The boys like to play watch Bacon Slayer play Angry Birds on his phone. For some reason, they have given the red bird the nickname “Spitwad.”

Then he spent quite awhile cutting the dough into manageable molding pieces.

The others just kind of broke of what the needed and contemplated life as they worked.


I had the kids use rapid-rise yeast in their pretzel dough because I anticipated them taking about a nanosecond and a half to shape the pretzels. Maggie and I were surprised at the amount of time that the kids put into shaping their creations. We were both convinced that they would spend the bulk of their time adding the toppings and flavorings to the pretzels. We also thought that they would make…well pretzel shapes. Shows you what we know.

On another note, we now understand why food competitions of television have a time limit–the kiddos were at it most of the afternoon.

Son #1 made an acoustic guitar. He says he chose an acoustic because “it’s much harder and more time consuming to shape an electric guitar.” Obviously.

Son #1 paid very close attention to taste when topping his pretzel with a little garlic, a dash of cayenne, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and basil.

Son #3 made A Friendly Snake, and then added a few hearts “so we wouldn’t get freaked out.”

Son #3 dove head-first into the topping choices by adding cinnamon sugar, basil, cayenne, Montreal Steak Seasoning, garlic, pepperoni, shredded mozzarella cheese, sea salt, and sparkly green sugar.

“It’s all stuff that you guys like!” he exclaimed. Yep. All stuff that we like. All on the same pretzel.

In everything he does, he’s our exuberant child.

It was at this point that Maggie & I were struck with the realization that at the end of all of this madness, we were going to have to eat the pretzels in order to properly judge them. That realization was about as subtle as a shovel to the face–suffice it to say that there was an audible gasp.

Drewpy decided to play on the Judges’ vanity by making personalized pretzels. “K=Love” for Kirsten, and “M-Money” for Maggie. I think in the process, Drewpy also gave us new Rapper Handles.

BTW–Drewpy totally denies going for the Suck-Up Vote.

Thankfully, Drewpy was a bit more restrained in topping her pretzels with cayenne, garlic & herb seasoning, sea salt, cracked pepper, basil, and shredded mozzarella &  cheddar-jack cheeses.

Son #2 decorated his pretzel based solely on aesthetics. He completed his vision by using red sugar, seasoned salt, black pepper, and non-pareils.

Look! They’re practically twins!

Once the pretzels were baked, Bacon Slayer was home from work and joined us at the Judges Table. We take our judging duties very seriously.

Each kid Competitor had to present their creation to us, and explain their reasoning behind the toppings.

Since Son #2 isn’t one for public speaking, he made us a sign.

I guess he figured his work could stand for itself.

When Bacon Slayer stated that he didn’t think he could fairly assess Drewpy’s entry in the competition because he didn’t have a Vanity Pretzel, she looked devastated…for about a millisecond. Then, nary missing a beat, Drewpy explained that had she known that he would have been home to judge the competition, she would have made a “G=Gorgeous” pretzel for him. Since his real-life name begins with G, Bacon Slayer was appeased.

And Drewpy still insisted that she was not sucking up to the judges!

After the presentations we had no choice it was our duty to judge the entries.

The Pretzel Challenge awards were as follows:

  1. Son # 1 – Best Balance of Flavor
  2. Son #2 – Best Artistic Presentation
  3. Son #3 – Most Creative Flavor
  4. Drewpy – Cheesiest Pretzel (a.k.a. The Suck-Up Award)

Not to be outdone, the competitors gave awards to the judges:

  1. Bacon Slayer – Most Serious
  2. Maggie – Most Cheerful
  3. Me – Quietest That Just Ate The Food

Yep. That pretty much sums it up for all of us.

We had a great day holding the first ever Pretzel Challenge. We will definitely have more food related challenges in the future.  The kids had a ball, and hopefully learned a few things. The judges also had a good time, and certainly learned a few things–like future challenges will have a time limit. ;)

In case you feel like making soft pretzels, or holding your own Pretzel Challenge, here’s the recipe we used (and doubled):

Letter Pretzels

From Kinder Krunchies: Healthy Snack Recipes for Children by Karen S. Jenkins

Makes 6-8 Pretzels

For the Pretzels:

1 Tbs. yeast

½ C. warm water

1 tsp. honey

1 tsp. salt

1 1/3 C. all-purpose flour


For the topping:

1 egg, for egg wash

1 tsp. water

Salt or other toppings

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  3. Add the honey and salt. Stir.
  4. Add the flour. Stir to combine.
  5. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until a soft dough forms.
  6. Roll pieces of dough to form letters.
  7. Separately, beat the egg with 1 tsp of water to make an egg wash. Brush the pretzels with the egg wash.
  8. Sprinkle with salt and/or other toppings.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes.
  10. Cool pretzels on a wire rack.
  11. Eat while still a little warm.