These pretzel rounds disguised as muffins are almost too cute to eat

What is cuter than a muffin? Well, I imagine there are quite a few things, but muffins really have the cuteness market covered when it comes to baked goods. I must warn you that like baby tigers, cuteness kills. Or at least temporarily paralyze you as you disappear down the rabbit hole of googling cute cat videos. These treats, however will not hurt you. In fact, quite a few recipes from the Muffin Tin Chef: 101 Savory Snacks, Adorable Appetizers, Enticing Entrees and Delicious Desserts by Matt Kadey have deliciously modern healthy spins. So cuteness can be good for the body, too.

As a dietician, Kadey squeezes in fiber and vitamins wherever he can, although this is not a strictly “health food” cookbook. I tend to think that sugar and butter (or vegan buttery spread!) have at least a small place in most diets, no matter how healthful. So I was pleased to see that Kadey was not dogmatic in his healthy ways.

One thing Kadey does, is point out the many reasons why baking things in muffin tins is advantageous. Yes, he includes the aforementioned Cute Factor. But there’s more, of course! Things that take longer in casserole form will cook more quickly in muffin form, so time is on the muffin side. Then he puts his dietician hat on to point out that it is instant portion control. I put on my realism hat and say that depends how many muffins you eat, but that is on you.

Kadey doesn’t just turn everything into a muffin, per se. Rather, he crafts recipes that fit handily into muffin tins, thus increasing their Cute Factor exponentially. For instance, rectangular granola bars are humdrum, but made in muffin tins. . . instantly adorable! Healthy never felt so cuddly. Other muffin achievements include the muffin tin-sized renditions of Sweet Potato Shepard’s Pie, Sweet and Sour Tofu Egg Rolls, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza and, of course, Macaroni and Cheese. Everything needs a mac and cheese version, obviously.

I chose something suitable for the month of October, in that Oktoberfest involves beer, which naturally calls for pretzels. Now, the original recipe has a recipe for a mustard sauce. May I would point you towards some homemade mustard instead? Presumably in the name of health, Kadey includes some whole wheat flour in these pretzel bites. In the name of delicious I put butter on one or two of mine. But I put butter on everything.

Now, I know pretzels seem intimidating to make. There is a yeasted dough, which can be tricky. And the kneading of said yeasty dough is a bit challenging. Then there is the boiling of dough before you bake it. And lastly, the shaping can be a pain in the arse. With these tips, you can at least avoid the tricky shaping step. And these noms will still be just darling, all cuddled up in a basket like the adorable baby baked goods they are.

Pretzel Rounds adapted from Muffin Tin Chef by Matt Kadey

  • 3/4 plus 2 Tbsp. lukewarm water (105-115 degrees F)
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar (I used granulated but Kadey encourages using coconut palm)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal
  • 2 Tbsp. baking soda (for boiling the dough)
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. H2O (for glazing)
  • coarse salt (I used sea salt)

In a large bowl, stir together the water, yeast, sugar and salt. Allow to stand until the yeast dissolves. Add the whole wheat and all-purpose flours and cornmeal and stir the dickens out of it. Kadey says add more water if you need it but I didn’t. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. I actually had to add more flour as I kneaded to keep the dough from sticking. When you press the dough with your finger and it remains indented, your dough is ready to rise. Put it in a bowl and coat with a little oil (I used a nonstick spray). Cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in size. It will be about an hour.

I got the muffin tin and boiling solution ready in that hour, and made a cocktail too. Why not? You need mini-muffin tin for this next step. Kadey does not specify greasing the muffin tin but I used paper liners. The dough stuck a little bit so in the future I’d probably give them a spray of nonstick spray. When the hour was up and my dough had risen, I turned the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, turned the dough out, gave it a punch to release some of the rise, then used a bench scraper to divide it into 24 equal rounds.

Fill a large saucepan one-quarter full of water and stir in the baking soda. Bring it to a boil. Half a batch at a time, you are going to boil the muffin rounds for about a minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove. Place them in the muffin tins and brush with the egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt and put them in the oven. They will take 10-15 minutes to bake. Allow to cool a few minutes before removing.  These little pretzel babes will be adorable and tempting and you’ll want to take them out right away, but you will burn yourself! Remember my warning about cuteness?