The Super Bowl is Sunday, which is the best night, not for football, but for food, obviously. Not everyone likes football or commercials that are now released ahead of time, but sports food is universal. The perfect example of this comes from The One With The Football episode of Friends. Rachel gets bored of the intense game of football the group plays to win the Geller Cup and "went really long" to get a soft pretzel instead.
My journey to make these pretzels was as intense as the game the friends play, and not because the recipe is complicated. I've been having a mini saga in an attempt to get a dough hook for my mixer that I lost at some point and only realized once I needed it (first world problems). I ran out of flour, and when I opened the new bag I had sitting in the cabinet, it was...infested. I had to finish it off with fava bean flour I happened to have. Twice in one week, I've had some yeast issues, which I realize sounds really gross. Basically, I was convinced this was going to be a giant failure at multiple points in the process, but kept cooking like everything was fine, and against all odds, I carbed out when they were done!
The cheese sauce was a perfect fairytale of a process as anything with cheese will be, read on to experience this saga with me. I learned so much about yeast!
Making the pretzel shape is much less complicated than it would seem. Just make a loop with your "string" of dough by pulling the ends up to meet, twist the ends around each other twice, and pull the twist down to meet the bottom of the loop and press the ends down to attach them to the bottom "layer." Also, I Googled how to do this so you can do that too if it didn't make sense.
And then even though Rachel ate hers plain like a true New Yorker on the street, I took artistic license and added some cheese to the situation.
soft pretzels with cheesy beer dip
inspired by Friends season 3, episode 9
makes about 8 medium sized pretzels
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 cups flour plus up to 3/4 cup more
- 2 cups water
- 4 tbsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp coarse salt
- 6 tbsp salted OR unsalted butter, melted (your pref!)
Combine yeast with warm water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment if you have one. (I used a glass bowl with a silicone whisk, then a wooden spoon because of my dough hook woes.) Once the mixture becomes frothy, stir in the salt and 1 tbsp of melted butter to combine. Add flour 1 cup at a time until the mixture turns into dough and it's not sticky anymore. It's ready to knead when you press it and it "bounces back." Knead the dough for 5 more minutes until it's smooth and flexible. If you're hook-less like me, hands knead well, just like they did in the old days. Once it's kneaded and ready to go, form the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl to "rest" and rise a little for 15 minutes. Cover if you want.
Preheat the oven to 475ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
While the dough is taking its little nap, boil the two cups of water and 4 tbsp of baking soda. Once the baking soda is mostly dissolved, remove from heat and let it cool to be lukewarm. Once it's cooled, pour the water/baking soda mixture into a 9x9 baking dish (8x8 works too).
After the water process, it's time to wake up the dough. Remove the ball from the bowl and flatten it a little. Cut it into 8 even sections like a pizza. Roll each piece into a long rope. It's kind of up to you with the sizing, but to get a decently sized pretzel that looks like a pretzel, it should be at least a few inches longer than a foot. Shape it into a pretzel (instructions above! or on Google!), or you can also make sticks or bites! Place your shaped dough it into the baking soda/water "bath" for 2 minutes. If any of the pretzel isn't submerged, spoon or use your hands to sprinkle water over those parts to make sure none of the pretzel is dry.
After 2 minutes, pick up the pretzel carefully and put it on the prepared lined baking sheet. You might have to reshape the pretzel after all the handling. While it's still wet, sprinkle the pretzel with the coarse salt. Repeat with all the pretzels.
Bake the pretzels for 8-9 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately brush them with the 6 tbsp of melted butter liberally. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for up to 2 days and reheat in the microwave, as long as they're hot!
recipe from sprinklesomesugar.com.
Here's where I have a disclaimer. These were very close to not turning out. Yeast is a fickle thing. I ended up learning a lot about how to make yeast work by literally Googling questions about it. Basically you can tell from the very first step if it's not going to work because if the yeast mixture doesn't foam before you go on making dough, it's DOA. Some of my takeaways were:
- Don't make the water too hot or too cold. It should be around 115ºF.
- If you can avoid it, try not to make the dough in a metal or ceramic bowl or use metal tools. Although, most mixers have a metal bowl so hopefully your yeast is just super active.
- If your yeast isn't foamy and it's not expired, there are tricks to get it to foam if it's not. One of them is placing your mixture in the bowl in a 100ºF oven for 5 minutes.
*The more you know.* But also, Google and other food blogs are your friends!
cheesy beer sauce
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup Blue Moon beer (or, you know, similar style beer)
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp dry mustard
- 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 1/2 cups colby jack cheese, shredded
- 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
- salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Add flour and whisk to combine until smooth, about one minute.
Gradually add the beer and milk, whisking constantly. Add garlic, dry mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
Switch to a wooden spoon and stir frequently until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes, but up to 10. Mine thickened after 3, but I wanted to make sure all the flavors were melded so I stirred it like a crazy person to make sure it didn't burn and removed it from the heat after 5 minutes when it wasn't super liquidy anymore.
Remove from heat and stir in the cheeses. Once combined, add cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper to taste. Dip the pretzels (or whatever you want, honestly) and enjoy!
recipe from keyingredient.com.
[cooked while watching nothing because my yeast issues were making me v stressed.]