In the So Many Fairies story “The Lantern Prince,” the Prince is not like his parents. In fact, he is not like any royal. In addition to being strong, obedient, and confident — common royal traits — he is also very kind and loving. But what really makes the Prince unusual is that he is kind and loving to everyone, royal and servant alike. The King and Queen hope that he will grow out of it, but, alas, as he grows he only gets more loving and kind. One day he spies a poor beggar woman in the streets and his life is never the same again.
“The Lantern Prince” was written in the spirit of Martinmas, a festival that takes place November 11th. As we learn from the story, Saint Martin (for whom the day was named) was a Roman soldier riding his horse one day when he saw a beggar freezing to death. Rather than turning away, he cut his cloak in half to warm the beggar — an act of love and light in the face of cold and darkness.
To honor this act of kindness, many people celebrate Martinmas by holding lantern walks in the chilly November evening. While the traditional foods for a lantern walk vary by country, in Germany pretzels are often served, both because they look like the shoe of Saint Martin's horse and because their mirror-image shape is a reminder of his cloak cut in half to cover two.
If you would like to try your hand at homemade pretzels for a Martinmas lantern walk, give the recipe below a try.
While I was initially nervous about boiling the pretzels before baking them, it's much easier than you might think and it gives the pretzels their characteristic chewiness. I used whole wheat flour, but you can substitute some or all of it for white flour if you prefer. And kids who love play dough will definitely want to help you make the pretzel ropes. Let them — this dough is amazingly forgiving!
The only rule I urge you to follow is to definitely serve these pretzels warm. Not only do they taste better that way, but their gentle heat will be just one more reminder of love and light through the autumn twilight.
(makes eight pretzels)
1½ cups warm water
1 packet yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 cups whole wheat flour
A few tablespoons of olive oil for greasing bowls and pans
¾ cups baking soda
10 cups water
About 3 tablespoons coarse salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let it sit for a few minutes until the yeast begins to look foamy, then add the melted butter.
In another bowl, combine the flour and salt. Using a dough hook attachment, slowly mix the flour into the water mixture. Once the dough starts to come together, increase the speed of the mixer to medium and mix until the dough sticks together in a large ball. You may have to add a pinch more flour or a splash of extra water depending on the day.
When the dough ball comes together, pour about a tablespoon of oil over the top to coat it, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it has doubled in bulk.
When the dough is almost ready, get everything else in place to finish the pretzels. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Prepare two small baking sheets by covering them with lightly greased parchment paper. Make an egg wash by whisking an egg with a splash of water in a small bowl. Lastly, mix the baking soda and 10 cups of water in a large, shallow saucepan, and bring the water to boil.
Now turn back to the dough. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces, and roll each one into a rope about 20-24 inches long.
Twist the rope into a pretzel shape and place it on the parchment.
Using a large spatula and working in batches, dip each pretzel into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. When the time is up, remove it from the water and return it to the parchment covered baking sheet.
When all of the pretzels have had their dip, brush each one with the egg wash and sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over the top.
Bake the pretzels for 12-15 minutes or until they turn a dark, golden brown. Enjoy them hot.
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred-year-old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two preschoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion — showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun — in her Sparkle Kitchen posts.