Randel Cooks

Midwest Home Chef



Ellen Hall’s Recipes

Aunt Ellen was a wonderful and loving aunt.  Alden Hall and Ellen Hall’s immediate family included oldest son Micheal, middle son Gary, and the youngest, daughter Cheryl but my younger sister Crystalyn and I would always feel right at home.  Fond memories of Aunt Ellen cooking amazing meals for Thanksgiving New Years and many other gatherings at Aunt Ellen’s house, summers at the farm in Carbondale, or whichever family gathering. 

But my favorite memories are cooking with Aunt Ellen by the campfire on Little Grassy Lake making smores and cherry campfire pies.  Here are some of Aunt Ellen’s recipes written in her own hand from my cousin Gary Hall, Ellen’s Hall middle son.


Aunt Ellen’s recipes in her own hand.


Rolled Dumplings


Hudson Bay Bread


Italian Beef




Soft Gingerbread


Famous Sugar Cookies




Butter Dips


Curry Dip


Drop Dumplings


Ellen and Alden Hall


Mall Soft Pretzel

Family Favorite – Second Attempt

So I have looking for a true soft pretzel recipe, but the first try has not the family’s favorite but the latest recipe is a winner.  Used 4 cups or unbleached AP flour, make sure water bath did not kill yeast at 110 degrees and let rest and rise 30 minutes before hitting the hot oven.  Brush on butter once out of the oven for firmer pretzels and brush on more unsalted butter to make softer pretzels which is the trick for traditional mall pretzels.

Better Second Try which is Family Favorite.


For pretzel dough

1. 4 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour for softer or 2 cups AP and 2 cups unbleached bread flour for firm texture.

2. 2 1/2 tsp of salt

3. 3 tsp instant yeast (2 tsp yeast and 1 tsp instant yeast)

4. 5 packed Tbsp. of brown sugar

5. 5 tsp of baking powder

6. 1 1/4 cups of warm water plus an addition 1-2 Tbsp if needed just add water to your hand while kneading

For water bath

1. 4 cups of warm water around 110 degrees so not to kill the yeast.

2. 1/3 cup baking soda

Topping after water bath

1. Coarse sea salt


1. 1/2 stick of butter melted for brushing


1. In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with dough hook, mix flours, salt, yeast, sugar and baking powder until combined. With mixer running on low speed stream in 1 1/4 cups warm water and continue to knead dough until combined, then an additional 5-7 minutes, until smooth and elastic. The dough should be soft, slightly tacky but not sticky. If after a minute or two of kneading, the dough feels very stiff or dry add additional water a Tbsp at a time or if it is really sticky add a Tbsp of flour at a time until right texture. I usually don’t have to add additional water unless the air is very dry and cool.

2. Alternately: you can initially mix ingredients in a bowl, to form a cohesive ball, then turn out on the counter and knead until smooth and elastic, following remainder of directions.

3. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and allow rest/rise for about an hour in a warm place. It doesn’t have to double. (but I waited till doubled)

4. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large pan, begin bringing the 4 cups of water to just about a simmer- you don’t want it really hot just really warm. Prepare baking sheets- use parchment paper or silicone mat (you can use just the pan but they may stick a bit)

5. Punch down dough and place on counter (do not flour or oil counter) and press into a long rectangle and cut into 12 equal pieces.

6. Gently roll and stretch each piece with your hands until you have a very long and thin rope- 36 inches long. To make a pretzel bring both ends up into a U shape, cross and then cross again, then bring ends down to bottom sides of the U and press to make pretzel shape. For pretzel sticks cut rope into 6 pieces or bites cut the sticks into 5-6 pieces. (It’s easier to cut into bites after dipping in baking soda bath)

7. Once the water is very warm, carefully and gradually add baking soda, stirring it in. (don’t make my mistake by dumping it in or using a small pan- it overflows and what an awful mess!) now wait until bath is around 110 degrees as not to kill the yeast.

8. Dip pretzels and or sticks in baking soda bath for just a few seconds, quickly in and out, and place on parchment prepared pans and let rise for 30 minutes for softer pretzels or just add salt and pop them into the oven for firmer pretzel. If you are making pretzel bites, cut the sticks into 1 inch bite size pieces (remember they do rise in the oven) and place on the parchment prepared pans. You may have to do a few batches, its ok if the pretzels sit out while waiting to go in the oven.

9. Sprinkle the dipped pretzels/sticks/bites with the coarse sea salt if desired before baking so salt will stick.

10. Place 4 pretzels on parchment paper and place in the oven and bake for 4 minutes, rotate pan(s) and bake an additional 3-5 min, until golden brown. Large pretzels will take the longer time- just keep an eye on them

11. Remove pans from oven and brush the pretzels generously with the melted butter. Take pretzels off pans and cool on wire racks.

12. Repeat process for remaining dough.

13. Serve warm or freeze in freezer bags for later use.

14. To reheat frozen pretzels- preheat oven to 350° and place frozen pretzels on a baking sheet. Place in oven and warm until heated through 5-10 min at most. Brush again with some melted butter and you are done.

15. Serve with cheese sauce or mustard or whatever you like!


To make cinnamon sugar pretzels- do not sprinkle pretzels with salt. Bake as directed, brush with butter and generously sprinkle a cinnamon/sugar mix.

For softer pretzels, use AP flour, let dough rise a second time before going into the oven, and use lots of butter.

Inspiration for second try

Good First Try – Firmer more traditional pretzel.

First Ingredients

First Pretzel Dough

1 1/2 cup warm water
4 oz. melted butter
1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup bread flour
3 cups regular flour (or less due to humidity)
Water Bath
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda
Coarse pretzel salt
3 tablespoons sweet butter (unsalted butter melted)**

First Directions

Sprinkle yeast on lukewarm water in mixing bowl and stir to dissolve. Add sugar, salt and stir to dissolve. Add flour and knead dough then add butter and knead until smooth and elastic. Let rise at least 1/2 hour.

While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 Tbsp baking soda. Place water and soda in a pan over medium low heat. Be certain to stir often and add enough water to allow pretzels to float.

After dough has risen, divide dough into 8 portions and roll each portion into a long rope* (about 1/2 inch or less thick and approximately 36 inches long) and shape rope into pretzel desired pretzel shape. Dip pretzel in soda solution, drain and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt.

Bake in 450 degrees F oven for about 10 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter. Enjoy!

* The longer and thinner you can make the dough rope, the more like Auntie Anne’s they will be.

** Sweet butter, not regular butter, unsalted butter is one of her secrets!

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