So who else is completely melting in this heat?
Here in Northern New Jersey we certainly are. Now, I realize that in some areas of the country and the world 100 degree heat and hotter is totally and every day thing. But when you’re not used to that climate, man is it HOT. I think we’ll all cringe a little bit when we get next month’s electric bill and see what it cost just to stay mildly comfortable indoors these past few days. It also probably wasn’t a good idea that I decided that this weekend would be the time I made these adorable pretzel bites with beer cheese dip. Heating the oven to 425 degrees plus a boiling pot of water made the kitchen feel like I was on the surface of the sun. But, I’d already dreamt these up in my head and once I’ve done that there’s no changing plans or turning back. On the plus side, the crisp cold beers we had with these were so refreshing.
Here’s your warning with these….these are time intensive and I’d rate these as “medium” on the complexity scale. There’s multiple steps, rising rough, boiling, then baking. It takes time. But, these are so good and the taste of fresh pretzel dough that’s been soft-baked with coarse sea salt then dipped into sharp Cheddar beer cheese dip….well there’s just no substitute. Here’s my recommendation, make these when you’re not planning on making anything else. So, don’t try these for the first time when you’re hosting a party and you’ve got a ton of other things to make. Make these when this is the only thing you’ll cook up, or you’re going to a party and just need to bring one thing (everyone will love you if you bring these by the way). These would be the perfect football watching snack! Also, how awesome is this newsprint food paper? It’s a wax paper that doesn’t absorb oil, find them on Amazon!
The beer cheese dip tastes best when you use sharp Cheddar. I actually only buy sharp Cheddar, and in many cases I buy extra sharp. I find that the flavor you get when using sharp or extra sharp is really what gives you that taste of cheese you’re looking for. The beer cheese recipe calls for a teaspoon of Dijo mustard, I recommend following that and only using a teaspoon. You’re just getting the tangy kick from it, but you don’t want to create a mustard flavor here, the cheese is the main star.
For the Pretzel Bites
-1 and 1/2 cups warm water
-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
-1 package active dry yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
-3 ounces butter, melted
-2 and 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
-5 cups all-purpose flour
-Vegetable oil for greasing bowl
-12 cups water
-1/3 cup baking soda
-1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
-Coarse sea salt
For the Beer Cheese
-3 tablespoons butter
-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup beer
-1 cup half and half or whole milk (I used half and half)
-1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-3 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1. To start the pretzel bites, in a stand mixer combine the 1 and 1/2 cups warm water, the melted butter, sugar and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.
2. Add in the salt and flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and knead for 3-4 minutes until the dough has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too sticky, add in flour a tablespoon at a time, although the 5 cups was perfect for me. Lightly flour your countertop and your hands and knead the dough on the counter until you form a large ball. Lightly grease a bowl with the vegetable oil, then place the dough inside. Cover with a towel and let it rise for 1 hour. The dough should double in size.
3. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Pour the 12 cups of water into a large pot and bring to a boil spray your baking sheets lightly with cooking spray. Whisk the egg and the tablespoon of water together.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and cut into 8 equal parts. Rolls each piece into a long rope. I start this rolling it back and forth in my hands, like you were using a stick to try and start a fire. It lets the weight of the dough as you’re holding it up right pull the dough down, helping it to elongate and form the thin rope. Then I place it flat on the counter, and roll back and forth gently pulling outwards on any parts that are still a little too thick. Using a knife or kitchen shears (I find the shears much easier and faster to be able to snip off the bites rather than using a knife to slice) cut your pretzel bites and place them in a bowl, you want them to be about the size of a quarter. They will puff up when you boil them so you don’t want to cut them too big since they’re going to get bigger. Repeat this until all dough has been cut into the dough bites.
5. When the water has come to a boil, SLOWLY add the baking soda. This makes the water fizz up rapidly, do not pour it in all at once. Place 15 of the dough bites into the water at a time, boil for 30 seconds, then remove with a slatted spoon and place onto a baking sheet. Arrange them until the sheet is filled, make sure none of the dough bites are touching. Brush each with the egg wash, then sprinkle with the coarse sea salt. Bake for 13-15minutes. I found 13 minutes was perfect for my oven. Repeat until all dough has been made into pretzel bites.
6. To make the beer cheese sauce, melt the butter in a sauce pot over medium heat, add the flour and whisk to combine and cook for 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the beer, then the milk, whisking while you pour. Cook over medium heat until the mixture has thickened, this will take several minutes and will eventually become a consistency like a gravy.
7. Once thickened, add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, pepper and salt. Stir to combine, then lower heat and add in the cheese 1 cup at a time, whisking to melt the cheese and form a smooth cheese sauce.
Now relax, crack a beer and enjoy!