Soft Pretzels With Roasted Jalapeno Cheese Sauce
Tell me that you're as an obsessive party planner as I am. Tell me that you hem and haw, and go back and forth a minimum of six times about which desserts you want on your menu. Tell me that I'm not the only one, because I sure feel like it sometimes! I keep a working menu for each party or dinner we plan in Evernote, so that wherever I am, I have access to the most up-to-date file. And that file gets worked over.
When it comes to deciding on appetizers and snacks, however, life is a little easier. These pretzels, aside from this cheesy chorizo and caramelized onion dip and my old-standby of baked fontina , are my all-time favorite party snack. I crave buttery soft homemade pretzels nearly all the time, and now that I've learned a method to have them on hand for when I have to succumb to the craving, I can share it with you -- and you know, take you down with me. Because you know what? I know for sure that you guys love your homemade soft pretzels just as much as I do, as is evident from one of my three most popular posts ever.
So the awesome thing about these pretzels is that you can make the dough and form the pretzels well in advance of your party. The key is to freeze them early, so that they are ready to quickly boil and bake for a few minutes before your guests arrive. You basically do all the hard work days (or weeks!) before your party, then have plenty of time to sit and enjoy the commercials and other incredible food you've made during the big game. (Or wait, do you ladies actually watch the Super Bowl?)
I've included a step-by-step photo guide below about how to shape the pretzels (lots of you have asked me about this) as well as the full recipe with instructions that you can print out. The pretzels themselves are really super easy to make, and if you're a cheese sauce lover like I am (without any processed ingredients!), you'll love the roasted jalapeño cheese sauce recipe I made as well. Game on, people, game on!
Once the dough has risen, dump it out on your work surface and divide it into 8 equal (ish) pieces. Keep the extra dough covered with a lightly damp towel to prevent it from drying out. Very lightly oil the surface with some vegetable oil - you can see the droplets above.
Roll each piece into a 24-inch log. (This one was almost finished.) The dough may shrink in size - just keep rolling until you get the size you want. (It doesn't have to be exactly 24 inches. Don't stress if it isn't.)
Shape each log into a large "U" with the ends pointing away from you.
Cross the ends over each other.
Twist the end around each other once to form the classic pretzel shape. Transfer each pretzel to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover the formed pretzels with another damp towel. Either freeze the pretzels on the baking sheets or proceed with boiling and baking them to serve immediately.
Soft Pretzels with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce source: pretzels adapted from Alton Brown (freezing method from Annie's Eats ), cheese sauce adapted from this recipe.
These pretzels are best eaten when they are freshly made. So to make them for a crowd, make the dough, then form and freeze the pretzels in advance of your party. This will also give you a good opportunity to double or triple your dough in case you need a lot of pretzels. Instructions for boiling and baking from the freezer are below.
For the pretzels:
- 1 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 22 oz all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
- 2 oz unsalted butter, melted
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 2 tbsp butter, melted
- Pretzel, Kosher, or coarse sea salt
For the roasted jalapeno cheese sauce:
- 2 small jalapeño peppers
- 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)
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- Kosher salt
1. To make the pretzel dough: 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 lightly 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.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Place a barely damp towel over the dough and the formed pretzels to prevent them from drying out while you form the other pretzels.
3. At this point, you can freeze the formed pretzels on the baking sheets. Once completely frozen, transfer them to a large zipper bag and continue to freeze until you need them. Use within 2 months.
4. To make the pretzels: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
5. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. If you're freezing your formed pretzels, skip this step now and continue with it when you're ready to boil and bake your pretzels from the freezer.
6. Using a flat spatula, gently lower the pretzels into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds. If boiling the frozen pretzels, add them to the water directly from the freezer - do not thaw them - and boil for a total of 45 seconds. Depending on the size of your pot, boil 2 to 4 pretzels at a time. Remove the pretzels from the water using the spatula, drain as best you can over the pot, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with some melted butter and sprinkle with the pretzel/Kosher/sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. If the pretzels were frozen, bake for an extra 1 to 2 minutes. Lightly brush pretzels with the remaining melted butter immediately after you remove them from the oven. Serve warm.
7. To make the cheese sauce: Set the jalapeños on a baking sheet and roast under the broiler until blackened on all sides, about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you roast them over a gas burner on the stove, turning with tongs. Place the jalapeños in a heatproof bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to cool for 15 minutes then with a paper towel, peel and discard the blackened skins off leaving just the fleshy peppers remaining. Slice, remove and discard the seeds, and roughly chop the peppers. Set aside.
8. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Stir in the chopped jalapeños to coat with the butter. Whisk in the flour, coating the peppers, and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
9. 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. Stir in the cilantro and add a pinch of salt, if needed. Serve warm. The sauce can be kept warm for 15 to 20 minutes over very low heat on the stove, stirring occasionally. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium power at 30 second intervals.