Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce

IMG_0360 I have been on a baking roll the last two weeks (which seems crazy since it is so hot out), but I love the smell and the rising dough sitting in my kitchen, and the fun of trying out new recipes. So this week, I went back to something both my husband and I love- soft pretzels! But I wanted to try something new. After a little searching, I came across a Rosemary and Sea Salt Pretzel Recipe over at two peas & their pod. I was pretty much sold when they also included a cheese dipping sauce.

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Yesterday, I got to work recreating this savory treat. The dough came together perfectly and I loved the fresh rosemary smell drifting out of the kitchen. The recipe is simple and straightforward (especially if you have  a stand mixer) and the dough doubled beautifully and baked off in a crisp, golden brown. The pretzels were light and chewy and looked like puffs of yummy goodness. Right before we scarfed these down as part of our dinner, I made the cheese sauce. It was good, but I would make some alterations (as indicated in my version of the recipe below). Long story short, we wanted the sauce to be much cheesier! Overall, this is a great treat and it will be reappearing in our house again soon.

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Happy Baking!

Rosemary Soft Pretzels with Cheddar Cheese Dipping Sauce

What You Need:

For the pretzels:IMG_0337

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Canola oil, to grease bowl
3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt

For the cheese sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

To Make:IMG_0341

For the pretzels, combine the water, sugar, yeast, and melted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Then, add the salt, flour, and chopped rosemary. Mix on low until combined. Once combined, increase the speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. (If the dough is too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Remove the dough, place it on a flat surface and shape into a ball with your hands. Coat a large bowl with canola oil, add the dough ball, and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot.

Place the dough on a clean, flat surface and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope moving from the center out to the edges of the dough with the palm of your hands. Taper the ends of the dough rope. Shape the dough into pretzels by crossing the two ends, twisting once, IMG_0345and then secure each end to the bottom of the pretzel with your thumbs. Shape all pretzels and then slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. (It will boil furiously as added.) Gentle place 2 pretzels into the boiling water using a slotted spatula and boil for 30 seconds. As they boil, splash the tops with warm water using your spatula.  Remove, and place pretzels on a baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown. Remove pretzels from oven and let cool on a wire baking rack.

For the cheese sauce, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then whisk in flour. Add milk and whisk until the mixture thickens, 2-5 minutes. Add shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve cheese sauce with pretzels and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from two peas & their pod.


Gray Days = Homemade Soft Pretzels

I miss the sun. For the last four days, I have been watching out the windows by my desk searching for the pale light but so far, nothing. It isn’t just that the days are getting shorter, which they are, but on top of that, our few hours of daylight aren’t really light at all. It’s just gray. Dust pan gray.

The encroaching darkness of an Alaskan winter didn’t really bothered me until the gray set in. Today, December 7th, the sun was supposed to rise at 10:35AM, but it never broke through the clouds. And it will set, behind a wall of clouds I’m sure, at 2:49PM. Our day will only last 4 hours and 13 minutes. This kind of darkness is a little disorienting. You look outside at 3:30PM and think it is 8:30PM, but you haven’t even had dinner yet. Strangely, I can deal with short days as long as day feels like day. Sun. Give me sun.

My answer to gray is bake goods. If I can’t make it cheerful outside, I can at least make our apartment smell warm and yummy. I have always had a special place in my heart for soft pretzels. Who doesn’t? So this seemed the prefect food to lift us out of the haze of gray.

I started making soft pretzels last year when I came across a recipe on the internet. For the life of me I can’t remember where I actually found it, but I’m so glad I did. It is remarkably easy, and Lucas and I love the results. I must admit, we are pretzel people. A trip to Pittsburgh, PA would not be complete without a visit to one of our favorite South Side spots, The Pretzel Shop. But even if you aren’t as pretzel crazed as we are, this is a recipe worth trying. My day feels brighter already.

Soft Pretzels

What You Need:

2 3/4 cups flour

1 envelope instant yeast

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup and 1 tablespoon hot water

1/3 cup baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white

Coarse sea salt, or flaky salt

To Make:

Combine the bread flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in the food processor,* pulse. While the food processor is running, gradually add hot water until elastic dough forms, about 5 minutes. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Allow dough to double in volume, about 30-60 minutes.

*Normally, I use a food processor, but in Alaska we don’t have one, so I kneaded the dough by hand. This is doable, but I recommend using a food processor if it is available.

Next, punch down the dough on a floured work surface. Divide it into 8 pieces. At this point, you can either make pretzel rolls (less shaping and good for sandwiches) or the traditional pretzel shape. If you want rolls, simply shape a round bun and slash a small ‘X’ on each using a serrated knife. If you want the traditional shape, roll a log with tapered ends. Cross the two ends and twist once to form the middle fork of the pretzel shape. The two tapered ends should be secured to the outside of the pretzel with light pressure, and if needed, a little water. Then cover the shaped dough with a towel and let it rise until it has doubled, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a baking sheet. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add sugar and baking soda (the baking soda will make the water bubble, so add it gradually). Boil each roll for 30 seconds, then flip, and cook for another 30 seconds. Place boiled pretzels on prepared baking sheet, brush with egg white, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until brown, about 20 minutes.

Enjoy!