Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pretzels and Cheese Dip

A long while back, my cousin started bringing this amazing dip and soft pretzels to family events. It was really addictive. I'm not sure whether it was the cheese dip or the pretzels that made it so enticing, but it was. She had a bakery near where she lived that made these wonderful pretzel rolls and bites. I got the recipe from her for the cheese dip, but couldn't find pretzel bread anywhere. Wanting to recreate the experience at home, I tried frozen soft pretzels and I must say, they just were not the same. Recently, I stumbled upon a recipe for soft pretzels and decided to give them a try. With some Google research, I learned that I what I had been missing all of these years was a good boil in some water and baking soda. Boiling in this alkaline bath really helps to give the pretzels the finish that was expected. Of course, they say that lye is a better alkaline bath, but I don't keep that on hand, so at this point, I will take their word on it. Somewhere out there, I even found a post by someone who had done some side by side comparisons with and without the baking soda bath, egg wash, etc. It was informative - but alas, I didn't save the links.

Cheese Dip
One 8oz. block of cream cheese
One jar of Old English cheese

Mix well.

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 c warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
6 T butter, melted
2 T brown sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
4 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c all purpose flour, for adjusting dough
2 T Vegetable oil
water w/ baking soda, 1 Tbsp of baking soda per cup of water
1 egg, beaten with a bit of water
Coarse sea salt

Combine the water, yeast, butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and 4 1/2c flour. Mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the bowl. Add additional flour about 1 T at a time, as needed to get the right consistency. Remove dough from the bowl and form into a ball on your counter.

Add vegetable oil to a bowl and rotate to coat the bowl. Add the ball of dough to the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with towel and let rize until dough has about doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 (I use the vent from my oven to be the warm place where I have the dough rise).

Bring the water to a boil and add the baking soda. (be careful, it will bubble up when you do!)

Now, decide whether you are making pretzels, bites, or rolls. This will impact how you divide it. If you are making pretzels or bites, I would divide the dough into 10-12 pieces and roll into long ropes. For pretzels, twist them into braids on your counter. For bites, cut each rope into 1" pieces. (I got about 175 bites!) Add the pretzels to the boiling water and allow to boil for about one minute each. If your pan fits them, you can boil more than one at a time. Place the boiled pretzels on a greased cookie sheet (I used cooking spray). Brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. (I didn't have any coarse sea salt, so I used just a bit of regular sea salt.) Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve with cheese dip or mustard. Perfect for a game time or anytime snack.

This post shared at the Ultimate Recipe Swap: Super Bowl Food and It's A Keeper Thursday.