On occasion the hubs and I get invited out. Pot lucks are my favorite. Seriously. I get to bring either something that I love and want to share, or something that I’m working on and want to perfect. I often bring dessert, not just to be popular (although that is the usual outcome), but also because it often means no leftovers to bring home. If the crowd is large, or the occasion less formal, soft pretzel bites are another favorite go-to.
Soft pretzels are always a crowd pleaser. A warm, tender, pretzel, smeared through a cheese sauce speckled with whole mustard and the tang of a good hoppy ale? I mean come on… no one can resist. Perfect to have on the sideboard during the game or for movie night, or when you just want to sit around and chat.
This recipe is a bit more involved than most. Soft pretzels, like bagels, have a unique step in that they are boiled before they are baked. In the case of pretzels, you boil them in a solution of baking soda to not only create the pretzel crust and dark, glossy color, but also the flavor of a bakery soft pretzel.
You could do these sweet if you wanted, with a caramel or chocolate sauce or even a cream cheese frosting. In fact you could serve this with both savory and sweet dips and let guests choose what they want. For this recipe I have made two executive decisions. Firstly I did these as bites, about 2 inches, which makes them better for serving to a crowd. Secondly I opted for just the boozy cheese dip, because it is my favorite.
Soft Pretzel Bites with Beer CheeseCourse: AppetizersDifficulty: Intermediate
Yield is about 90 Pretzel Pieces and 2 1/2 Cups of Cheese Sauce
- Pretzel Bites:
1 C Warm Water (250ml)
1/2 C Beer (125ml)
1 Tbl Sugar (14g / .5oz)
2 1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast (8g / .3oz)
4 Tbl Unsalted Butter; Melted (57g / 2oz)
2 tsp Fine Sea Salt (7g / .25oz)
4 1/2 C All Purpose Flour (665g / 23.5oz)
2/3 C Baking Soda (178g / 6.5 oz)
1 Lg Egg
Flaky Sea Salt or Pretzel Salt
3 Tbl Unsalted Butter (42g / 1.5 oz)
3 Tbl All Purpose Flour (27g / 1 oz)
1/2 C Beer (125ml)
1 C Whole Milk (250ml)
1 1/2 C Sharp Cheddar; Shredded (170g / 6oz)
4 Tbl Whole Grain Mustard (80g / 3 oz)
2 Tbl Dijon Mustard (40g / 1.5 oz)
- For the Pretzel Bites:
- In the Bowl of a Stand Mixer, whisk together the Warm Water, Beer, Yeast, and Sugar. Set aside for 5-7 minutes until the mixture is foamy.
- Whisk in the Melted Butter. Attach bowl to your mixer, fitted with the dough hook.
- Add the Flour and Salt to the bowl. Starting on low speed, mix until a shaggy dough forms. Increase the speed to medium and kneed until the dough comes away from the sides and no longer sticks to the bottom. This is a very stiff dough, do not be tempted to add more water.
- I often find that the dough hook “lets go” of this dough because it is so stiff. So turn out the dough onto a clean surface a kneed by hand until it is smooth and uniform – about 5-10 minutes.
- Clean the bowl from the stand mixer and grease lightly with cooking spray or a little butter. Return the dough to the prepared bowl, cover, and allow to rise for 1 hour at room temperature. It will not double like most dough, so don’t worry.
- Preheat the oven to 450°. Line four baking trays with parchment and set aside.
- In your largest stock pot, bring 1 gallon of water to a boil over high heat. Add 2/3 Cup of baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to a simmer and hold until ready for use.
- Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Using a bench scraper or large knife, divide the dough into 8 pieces (they don’t have to be exact). Loosely cover the pieces with a towel when not being shaped.
- Lightly grease your hands and press a piece of dough out into a rectangle, about 4×6 inches. Starting with a long end, roll the dough into a rope. Continue to roll gently, starting the middle and working to the ends, until the rope is about 12 inches long. If you find that the dough starts to shrink back, set it aside, under a towel to rest for a couple minutes and then continue. Repeat with each piece of dough. Cover the completed ropes with a towel so that they don’t dry out.
- Line up you eight ropes of dough and cut them into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces using a bench scraper or a large knife. Transfer the pieces to the first two baking trays. They can be crowded, as long as they don’t touch – you should have roughly 45 pieces on each pan.
- Raise the heat on your baking soda bath and bring it back to a boil.
- Working in batches, boil the pretzel bites for 30 seconds. Transfer the pieces to the second two baking sheets, arraigning them so that they do not touch. They will be ugly, and slightly slimy… have no fear… you are doing great!
- Once all the pieces are boiled and arraigned, whisk the Egg with a tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush each pretzel piece with the egg wash. Sprinkle with Flaky Salt or Pretzel Salt.
- Bake at 450° 10-12 minutes, until a deep brown. Think mahogany. Allow to cool on the pans. The cooled pretzel bites can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for up to 3 days. They also freeze beautifully!
For the Beer Cheese:
- In a Medium, Heavy Saucepan, melt the Butter over medium heat. Add the Flour and whisk until smooth. Cook for a minute or two to get rid of the raw flour taste.
- Remove from the heat and slowly add the Beer in small additions, whisking until smooth after each. Add the milk in the same way, small additions.
- Return to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. The sauce will begin to thicken as it heats. Cook until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.
- Reduce the heat to low, and add the Cheese, whisking until melted and smooth.
- Remove from the heat. Whisk in the Mustard(s) and check for seasoning. Adjust the amount of mustard, salt, and pepper to your liking.
- Serve the Cheese Sauce warm. It will continue to thicken as it cools. If you need to reheat, warm over medium heat with 1/4 cup of milk, whisking until warmed through.
Measuring Cups and Spoons or Food Scale
Stand Mixer Fitted with the Dough Hook
4 Large Rimmed Baking Sheets*
Large Slotted Spoon or Spider
Medium, Heavy Sauce Pan
Large Stockpot (2-3 Gallons)
- *If you don’t have four baking trays, you can do steps 9-11 in batches. Keep the second batch uncut and covered on the work surface until you are ready.