I am a complete sucker for mall pretzels. And it’s a darn good thing that you’ll only find me at the mall once or twice a year because more trips would like equal more pretzels. And as much as I love them, I’ve only made them once before, admittedly to great success but since Kyle isn’t a huge fan (crazy boy), I haven’t made them again. But in all the years since I first made them, there’s been one recipe I’ve been saving and I finally decided to bust it out just in time to share it with you while you’re all getting crazy planning your Super Bowl (or maybe anti-Super Bowl?) party menus. For the record, we’ll both be watching movies this Sunday, as is our annual tradition, while the rest of the nation is either watching the Super Bowl or waiting for the commercials (rarely both).
So this recipe isn’t any big secret; in fact, it’s probably the most widely adored one out there but if you haven’t made it yet, you need to get.on.it. Like now! And don’t be intimidated by making homemade soft pretzels either because this recipe is practically fool-proof. I not only halved the recipe (something that isn’t always recommended with yeast recipes), but I also refrigerated the dough overnight after the rise (something that is usually done to yeast dough before the rise, if at all). I let the dough come back to room temperature for about 2 hours before using it and the pretzel bites turned out like a dream. Seriously awesome soft pretzels. And dipped in the homemade cheese sauce (no processed ingredients with this recipe!), I was floating through mall pretzel heaven. Josie made this recipe back in October and suggested brushing the pretzels both before and after baking them and I couldn’t agree more – buttery soft pretzels might just be the perfect snack food!
If one batch of pretzels is too much for your needs or you want to make them in advance for a party, these pretzel bites can be frozen after you cut them and before you boil them. Place the dough pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze then toss them in a zip-top bag. When you want them later, boil them directly from the freezer (add an extra 15 seconds to the boil time) and bake for the time instructed.
- 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
- Vegetable oil
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- Pretzel or Kosher salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (not package pre-shredded cheese - shred your own)
- Kosher salt
- To make the pretzels: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and butter. 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. Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a well-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 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. Slice each rope into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Place a lightly damp towel over the pretzel pieces to prevent them from drying out while you roll and cut the other pieces.
- Using a slotted spoon lower a handful of the pretzel pieces into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds, flipping them around in the water with the spoon a couple of times. Remove the pretzel pieces from the water using the spoon, drain as best you can, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with the melted butter and sprinkle with the pretzel/Kosher salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 10 - 12 minutes. Brush with remaining melted butter before serving. Serve warm.
- To make the cheese sauce: In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
- Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain. Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve warm. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.
source: pretzels adapted from Alton Brown; cheese sauce is a Smells Like Home original