Long work days and school stress pair to champion my strong desire to pursue cheesy carbs as a coping mechanism.
Is it the healthiest choice? Nope. But sometimes you want to pretend that despite 93 degree October temperatures and 1000% percent New Orleans humidity, that it’s autumn, and that comfort carbs are the way to stay warm.
Each year I make strudel from scratch, and carefully bread chicken cutlets pounded thin for schnitzel. This year I added pillowy soft pretzels to our annual Oktoberfest Germanpalooza, and…
Well. I’m glad.
Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese Dip
1 12-ounce bottle of lager or Marzen
1 T sugar
2 t kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast (2.25 t)
4 T melted butter
4.5-5 cups flour
10-12 cups water
.75 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt for the top (Maldon or kosher salt will work, too!)
Heat your beer in a measuring cup in the microwave to approximately 110 degrees F. Using either a stand mixer (with a dough hook) or bread machine (using the dough setting), mix the beer, sugar, salt and yeast and let sit until foamy. Turn the mixer to low, and carefully add the butter. Add the flour gradually until the dough comes together. If it’s overtly sticky, you’ll use the upper end I recommended above – closer to 5 cups. Increase the speed and let the dough hook knead the mixture for several minutes until the dough is ball-like and wrapping around the hook.
Grease a large mixing bowl, maneuver your dough into a ball shape, and flip it in the bowl once or twice to make sure it’s coated in oil. Cover with a dish towel (we use really lightweight IKEA towels for baking and proofing), and let rise for about 70 minutes (or until a little more than doubled in size).
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and line two large jelly roll pans with parchment paper. Bring your water to a boil in a stockpot, mixing in the baking soda.
Now for the fun part: shaping the pretzels. On a baking mat coated lightly with cooking spray, divide your dough into eight balls. Flatten each piece, and roll carefully, one at a time, until each bit of dough is a 2-foot long rope. Form a U shape, and twist the ends back down, pressing lightly. Add them no more than 2 at a time to the boiling water, leaving them submerged for approximately 30 seconds. (You’ll want to use a spider utensil.)
Brush with the egg and water mixture, sprinkle with salt, and bake until browned (around 15 minutes, depending on your oven).
Fun part, deux: the beer cheese dip.
Beer Cheese Dip
2 T salted butter
2.5 T flour
.5 cup milk
6 oz lager or Marzen
1.5 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t ground mustard
1 t granulated garlic
.5 t cayenne
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
In a small saucepan or cast iron skillet, melt the butter on medium low heat, whisking in the flour to create a roux. Add milk and beer gradually, whisking and then continuously stirring until thickened. Add the Worcestershire, mustard, garlic and cayenne, and then stir in the cheese. Remove from heat and season to taste with sauce and pepper.