Today is National Pretzel Day! I considered everything from a pretzel-crusted fish to a sweet dessert pretzel, but then realized: I just needed a good, solid, recipe for a homemade easy soft pretzel with beer cheese. Because one should be able to have delicious pretzels without going to the mall. And beer cheese takes a pretzel from “Yum” to “YES PLEASE.”
And there’s all these pretzel-appropriate occasions coming up! Memorial Day, the NBA finals, baseball, other…sports… Pretzels: good. Pretzels with beer cheese: excellent. Scroll down for more amazing pretzel recipes!
Preggo Update: 36 weeks = 8 months!
It’s gettin’ real! This weekend, we set up a pack’n’play in our room, where she’ll sleep for the first little while (in the one we got, the mattress can be raised to bassinet height). We also started sorting the zillion cute outfits that we’ve been given. Ironically, I think the only thing we need more of are onesies–we are drowning in tiny coordinated outfits. Also, I tried to trap the baby socks in a mesh laundry bag but failed to seal it, and so already have 4 socks that do not match anything else. I cannot account for this at all.
I’m planning to pack my hospital bag (suitcase?) this week. If you have any must-have tips, please leave the in the comments! This first-time mom will take all the help she can get.
Easy Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese
And now, pretzels!
There are two adaptations you can do with this recipe. First, the flour. I used white whole wheat for a slightly healthier version. Regular all-purpose will produce a slightly lighter, bouncier pretzel; you could even use bread flour for a super bouncy pretzel.
The second is the baking soda bath. Genuine German pretzels are actually dipped in lye (yes, the same stuff you use to make soap), but a) lye is dangerous and b) I’m pregnant and c) that’s just waaay too much trouble. Baking soda dissolved in warm water will get you a decent home approximation of that chewy outside, but if you’re feeling lazy, you can skip it.
Pretzel Shaping Tips
You can make pretzels in any shape you like, of course. Rods, pretzel-without-the-twist, hearts… But if you’d like to make the classic pretzel form, it’s actually pretty easy.
Lay out your dough rope in a U, ends pointing away from you. Bring those together and twist, an inch or two away from the ends. Fold the twist down towards you and stick the ends to the body. Voila! (Here’s a visual guide, should you need one.)
The one key, whichever shape you like, is to make your ropes skinny. The pretzels puff in the oven, which obscures the shapes a bit. By making the dough ropes skinny, you create exaggerated shapes that look normal after baking.
You can make these any size you want. I tried making 12 to a batch (the small ones) or 8 to a batch (the bigger ones). The small ones are a great single-serving size; the big ones are big enough to hold in both hands and chew on properly. If you want mall-sized, I think 6 to a batch would be about right. Or try 4 to a batch for a meal-sized pretzel…and please send a photo if you attempt this.
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 packet)
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups flour
1/4 cup baking soda, dissolved in 4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
Pretzel, kosher, or coarse sea salt
4 ounces cheese (try cheddar, Jack, mozzarella)
2 ounces low fat cream cheese
2 ounces beer
1 teaspoon Dijon
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Optional: 1 teaspoon hot sauce or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Garnish: Chopped parsley, chives, or green onions
Preheat oven to 425F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water (I like to use a whisk).
Mix in salt and flour, one cup at a time. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/4 cup at a time. Dough should bounce back when you poke it with two fingers.
Knead for about 3 minutes, either in the stand mixer or on a clean, floured counter. Form into a ball.
Use a bench scraper to cut dough into equal pieces. 6 pieces will give almost mall-sized pretzels; 12 will produce modest, single-serving sized pretzels.
Roll each piece into a skinny rope and form into the shape of your choice. Place each pretzel on the baking sheet.
Use a slotted spatula or other utensil to dip pretzels one by one briefly into baking soda water. Place back on the baking sheet.
Brush pretzels with egg wash (optional: turn and brush the bottoms also). Sprinkle generously with salt.
Bake for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to broil and broil for 1-2 minutes, or until tops are perfectly golden-brown. Remove to cool on a wire rack.
In a medium bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Mix in remaining ingredients. If desired, top with a little extra cheese for effect.
Pour into an oven-safe serving dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until everything is melted and cheese on top starts to turn golden.
Allow to cool a bit before topping with chopped herbs and serving with warm pretzels!