*this post is brought to you by Dana Sandonato from killingthyme.net.
When Jared asked me to develop a recipe for The Hesitant Chef, I was anything but hesitant. In fact, I was incredibly eager to come up with something that reflected both of us - as people, and as bloggers.
Jared and I have a few things in common: we’re both from Southern Ontario; we love beer; we love food; we love beer in food; and we love sharing beer and food with our friends. Bearing this in mind, I really wanted to develop a recipe that reflected all of these things.
If anything pairs well with beer, it’s a salty snack - like pretzels. And it just so happens that beer has yeast in it - and what is yeast great for? Dough. So, making beer pretzels was a bit of a no-brainer.
And it gets better!
As I was deciding on what type of beer to use (I went with a Bavarian lager), I thought that including a homemade cheese sauce for dipping would be wise - because really, you can’t have fluffy and delicious pretzels without a warm cheese sauce! (I can’t, anyway.)
Ah, and guess what makes a cheese sauce even better? Beer. Yes.
We’re basically just putting beer in everything now. BEER IN ALL THE THINGS. Is anyone going to complain? No? Didn’t think so.
Let’s chat about a few things first.
Let me preface this by saying that I’m not very experienced with dough (D’oh!) and of course, this was my first time making pretzels. I really had no idea what sort of consistency I was looking for, but common sense suggested it should feel like homemade pizza dough, so I hoped for that. Thankfully the dough turned out wonderfully; it was easy to mix, easy to knead, and easy to shape.
This dough needs to rest for an hour. Once that hour is up, cut it into 8 segments and roll each segment into 18-20-inch long dough ropes.
Once you roll out a dough rope, take the two ends and form a circle. Then, cross the two ends over from one another, approx. half an inch. Twist the ends around once, and fold the ends to the bottom of the pretzel. Pinch the ends to the bottom of the pretzel to seal and secure.
Before putting these bad boys into the oven, you want to give each of them a 30-second soak in boiling water with baking soda. This is an example of science in baking and why it’s important. The boiling process helps the interior of the pretzel “puff” and a crust begins to form. If you skip boiling, you’ll be robbed of the chewiness that you long for in a soft pretzel. The addition of baking soda increases the pH, bringing it to basic/alkaline end of the scale, and gelatinizes the crust. This helps achieve that sexy golden exterior, complete with glimpses of pulled crust and crackling on the surface!
Once done, brush the pretzel tops with your egg wash and hit those bad boys with some coarse Kosher or sea salt.
Now, you’ll notice these big puffy pretzels don’t quite look like your standard symmetrical stadium pretzels. In all honesty, I’m kind of thrilled about this. Though I do love me some stadium pretzels, there is just something really inviting and comforting about these warm, golden puffs and their homespun aesthetic. They are like a pretzel-bagel-brioche hybrid and that can never be a bad thing. When you pull one of these pretzels apart, the pillow-y goodness inside is a total dream.
The only thing that can make it better is, of course, a warm and gooey cheese dip.
The Cheese Dip.
This is the kind of cheese dip you’ll want to keep dunkin’ into, so if you’re against double dipping… get over it.
I did some homework on different beer + cheese dipping sauces and tried a few new tricks, but I decided to scratch them and roll with what I know: my trusted method for creamy mac and cheese sauces. It’s never failed me, and I wanted to provide you with a trustworthy method.
Something worth noting is the importance of your beer being at room temperature. This is SO important. Adding cold beer to a cheese sauce will break the sauce resulting in a frothy pool full of curds. Er, no thanks.
Another little trick - I’m a firm believer in starting a good cheese sauce off with a roux. I’ve run into some people who claim that the roux is an unnecessary step and I couldn’t disagree more. I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right - to each their own - but in my experience, the roux ensures a nice and thick velvety texture that will make your toes curl and your tastebuds sing. Who could pass that up?
The best part of this cheese sauce is that you can actually taste the beer-y goodness. Needless to say, all of this pairs amazingly well with a nice cold beer.
The type of beer you use is an important choice to make. While reading up on other recipes, I came across some instances where people tried using IPAs and were sorely disappointed. IPA’s can be great for meat marinades and glazes, but it’s seemingly not as welcomed in the world of breads and cheeses due to it’s bitter notes. Based on these findings, I avoided the IPA and went with a lager. Lager always seems safe. I wouldn’t mind trying a porter or whit sometime, but if you’re looking for that beloved classic beer flavor, a lager, or pilsner, is where it’s at.
I’m finally just going to tell you how to make this.
Beer Pretzels with Drunken White Cheddar Sauce
Ingredients for the Pretzels:
1 12-oz bottle of lager or pilsner
1/4 oz (2.25 teaspoon) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
3 + 1.5 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
10 cups of water
2/3 cup baking soda
Ingredients for the Topper:
1 large egg yolk, beaten
2 tablespoons beer
Coarse kosher salt
Ingredients for the Cheese Sauce:
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup lager or pilsner, room temperature
8 oz aged white cheddar, shredded
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
Directions for the Pretzels (Yields: 8)
1. In a sauce pan, heat the beer over moderate heat bringing it to a temperature of 115°.
2. Remove from heat and stir in the yeast. Stir until dissolved.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, salt, beer/yeast mixture, and 3 cups of flour. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Gradually add the remaining 1.5 cups of flour to form a softer dough (note the dough will be sticky - this is normal).
4. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and smooth (this took me about 7 minutes)
5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once to grease all of the doughs’ surface, and cover with a dry towel. Place in a warm place until the dough has risen. This should take about an hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 425°.
7. Punch down on the dough.
8. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into eight pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, and then roll each ball into an 18-20 inch rope.
9. Bend the ends of each rope, forming a circle, and cross the two ends over from one another, approx. half an inch. Twist the ends around once, and fold the ends to the bottom of the pretzel. Pinch the ends to the bottom of the pretzel to seal and secure.
10. In a dutch oven, bring the water and baking soda to a boil.
11. With a slotted spoon, carefully immerse pretzels, two at a time, into the boiling water and allow to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to dry.
12. Once done, place the pretzels on a baking sheet approx. 2 inches apart from one another.
13. Mix the topper ingredients together in a bowl and gently brush each pretzel top with the wash; finish by sprinkling coarse salt over the pretzel tops.
14. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
15. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.
16. While the pretzels cool, you can start on your cheese sauce.
Directions for the Drunken Cheese Sauce (Yields: 1 cup)
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat.
2. Gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour. Continue to whisk until a thick roux forms.
3. While whisking, slowly and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid any clumps.
4. Bring the heat up a bit so the milk comes to a boil, and whisk until the roux has dissolved into the milk, thickening the sauce.
5. While whisking, slowly add 1/2 cup of beer.
6. Allow to simmer until the sauce thickens again.
7. Add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese melts.
8. If the sauce is too thick, you can gradually add more beer as you whisk until you reach a desired consistency.
9. Add the Dijon mustard.
10. Season with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste.
11. Serve with the pretzels.
Tips: Once the pretzels have cooled, you may freeze them in a resealable freezer bag. To thaw, leave at room temp or microwave each pretzel until heated through (times vary depending on microwave).
If you have leftover cheese sauce, it will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. To reheat, simply transfer to a saucepan and heat on medium-low heat. Add a few splashes of milk to get a creamy consistency going again, and once you have a creamy consistency, remove from heat and serve.
Dana is the content creator over at killingthyme.net. She loves food photography(obviously because she's amazing at it!) and she's funny. Follow, like, pin, stumble, and tweet her blog. I'm sure she'll like you more for it. :)