Soft Pretzels (and Welsh Rarebit)
Pretzels and cheese sauce is a well-balanced and nutritious dinner, right?!?! Right.
While I love going out for a fancy dinner or attempting to cook something elaborate at home, sometimes I just want to eat some stinky blue cheese, a scoop of ice cream, a glass of wine…. or perhaps potato chips and onion dip. I guess when you’re an adult no one forces you to eat vegetables (or anything that resembles an actual meal).
After a delicious lunch at one of my favorite restaurants (which included perfectly seared Albacore and an edamame and mushroom risotto) I can’t say I was that hungry for a huge dinner. Something snacky sounded good. Seeing as I’ve wanted to make pretzels for a while and I had all of the ingredients I decided to seize the moment and make me some pretzels and cheese sauce.
Up until this week I can’t say I had any idea how one makes a pretzel. I found it very interesting that you actually (briefly) boil your pretzel in water with a very healthy amount of baking soda before you bake it. If you’re new to making pretzels, be sure to boil your pretzels in the biggest pot you have. The baking soda and pretzels caused the water to foam like crazy.
As far as pretzel salt goes, I didn’t have any so I used coarse sea salt and it worked just fine.
From Alton Brown
- 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon table salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus a bit more if your dough is too sticky)
- 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil, for bowl and work surface
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
- Pretzel salt or coarse sea salt
Combine the 1 1/2 cups water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. I found I needed to sprinkle in a few additional tablespoons of flour, as my dough was incredibly sticky.
Place the dough in a bowl coated with vegetable oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Set aside.
Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Alternatively, you can take your 24-inch ropes and cut into 6 or so pieces for pretzel bites. I did a combination of both.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds (flipping over after 15 seconds). Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula (I used a fish spatula, which I love). Place pretzels on your prepared sheet pans.
Brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel or sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Serve with mustard and/or a delicious cheese sauce (recipe below).
Just a note on storing the pretzels: like most baked goods, soft pretzels are best the day they’re made (preferably freshly baked). DO NOT put them in an airtight container (too much humidity). Chances are they’ll look super shriveled up. The best way to store them is in a paper bag, at room temperature. When ready to serve, heat them up for a few minutes in a 375 oven. But really, there won’t be any leftovers because they’re so delicious!
Welsh Rarebit Sauce (aka Welsh Rabbit Sauce)
Adapted from Pioneer Woman
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1/3 cup milk (whole is preferable, but skim or 2% will work too)
- 1/2 cup beer (I found a pilsner worked very nicely)
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1 dash Worcestershire
- 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Sprinkle in flour and whisk together until combined. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Pour in milk and beer, whisking constantly, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add mustard, paprika, and cayenne and whisk. Add cheese and whisk slowly, cooking for a couple of minutes or until smooth, melted, and very hot. Remove from heat and serve immediately. If you’re so inclined, a sprinkling of finely chopped chives will make it look less orange and goopey.