Jul 31, 2012

soft pretzels with beer cheese sauce (and) love

Tomorrow is our third anniversary!  (Happy Anniversary, Love!)  It's crazy how quickly the past three years have gone.  It feels like our wedding was just yesterday.

But, at the same time, a lot has changed in these past few years.  We finished grad school, got jobs, adopted a (slightly neurotic) pooch, moved across the country, and started a new life here in Cleveland.  I guess it really has been three years.

I have found the perfect anniversary gift.  It may not be terribly sentimental or fancy, but it sure is good.  Soft pretzels and beer cheese sauce.  (Take note, Mom.  We all know how much Dad loves soft pretzels.)

I'm totally confident that it can be the Happy Anniversary food, the I'm Sorry food, or even the Call Me? food.  It can pretty much solve all of your relationship problems or be a (necessary) element for a celebration.

Make some pretzels, pretend that calories don't count (for celebration's sake) and dig in.  And don't forget to say "I love you".  Your day will immediately improve.

Soft Pretzels with Beer Cheese Sauce
Recipe adapted from The Curvy Carrot
Makes 8 pretzel rolls or about 60 pretzel bites and 3-4 c cheese sauce

Soft Pretzel Ingredients
*I would recommend doubling the pretzel recipe to use up all of the cheese sauce.  Freeze the leftovers*
  • 1 c warm water
  • 1 packet yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
  • olive oil
  • 2 3/4 c flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (plus more for sprinkling on top, optional)
  • 6 c water
  • 3 tbsp baking soda
To make the pretzels, combine the warm water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer (with the dough hook attachment).  Let the yeast start to bubble.  In the meantime, coat a large bowl with  a thin layer of olive oil and set aside.  In another large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the stand mixer with the yeast.  Mix the dough on low until everything's combined, then speed up the mixer to medium and let it combine for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is soft and elastic.  Once the dough is ready, place it in the olive oil bowl, turning the dough over so that it's coated with the oil.  Cover the dough and let it rise for about a half hour, until doubled in size.

In the mean time, line a baking sheet with parchment paper that's lightly coated with olive oil.  Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface.  If you want to make pretzel rolls, cut the dough into 8 pieces, form them into balls and set them on the prepared baking sheet.  Make shallow cuts on the top of them to make X's.  If you want to make pretzel bites, cut the dough ball into 4 pieces, roll each one out to about 18" and cut off 1" slices to form the pretzel bites (they will grow significantly as they rise again and bake, so if you want them smaller in the end, make them smaller now).  Put the pretzel bites on the prepared baking sheet.

Cover the pretzels with a cloth and allow them to rise once again, about 20 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Also, in a large saucepan, begin to boil the 6 cups of water.

Once the pretzels are done rising, carefully pour the baking soda into the water (the water will bubble up when the baking soda is added, so be careful!).  Stir the baking soda into the water.  Carefully place 2 rolls or about 15 bites into the water at a time.  Cook the rolls about 90 seconds per side.  If preparing bites, boil the pretzels for about 2 minutes total, stirring every so often to turn them over.  Once they're boiled, remove them from the water, drain extra water from them, and place them back onto the baking sheet.  Continue until everything's been boiled.

Bake the pretzels for about 12 minutes, until they're medium to dark brown.  Allow them to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm with the cheese sauce or try the rolls as a bun for a veggie burger (especially good when covered in this cheese sauce!).  Store extra pretzels at room temperature or freeze them.  They can be reheated well in the oven.

Beer Cheese Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c yellow onion, chopped (or pureed for a smooth sauce!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or pureed for a smoother sauce)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 2 c beer (I used a white ale, but any will work)
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 3 c cheddar cheese, grated (more or less for taste or thickness)

To make the beer sauce, chop or puree the onion and garlic and set aside.  Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and bay leaf.  Allow them to cook for about 4 minutes, until the onions are becoming translucent, but nothing is browning yet.  Add the flour and mix everything well, whisking constantly for about 3 more minutes.  Add the beer and whisk it in well, until the flour mixture is broken up.  Add the cream as you continue to whisk.  Add the pepper, cloves and nutmeg.  Bring the sauce to a simmer and let it continue to cook down for 30-60 minutes (longer for a thicker sauce).

Whisk the sauce every few minutes during this time.  Remove the bay leaf from the sauce after it's done simmering.  Remove the sauce from the heat and add the cheese, mixing it in until it's smooth.  Serve warm with the soft pretzels.  Store extra sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator.  This sauce will easily reheat in the microwave.

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