Soft Pretzels and Beer-Cheddar Fondue

I legit tried to like football.  I have watched (and will continue to watch) many a game at sports bars with my Vikings-obsessed dude.  Of course, he buys me Bloody Marys, so, you know.  Well played.

I’ll admit that the sport is often entertaining, and exciting, and sometimes even heartwarming.  And that silly pants Jared Allen is a hoot if I’ve ever seen one.   But it’s just not my thing.  Maybe that’s why I, according to every light beer (ew) commercial, as A Lady Wearing Something Other Than a Bikini, must be a fun-hating, potpourri-sniffing shrew (double ew).  I’m a bad person, but no fun I AM NOT.

So, yes.  The whole thing isn’t something I can fully embrace–football and I are on a side-hug basis.

But the food.  Oh, the food.  Anything that gave us the 2nd biggest eating holiday of the year gets at least one side hug.  Of course, when you gorge your face with nachos and beer for 3+hours, it might be the only kind of hug you can manage.  It’s okay.

Speaking of, if you’re going to stuff your face with impunity (and game-day food), you really ought to consider the following: carbs, salt, cheese, more cheese, beer and mustard.  It can all be packaged together like this:

Chewy, delicious homemade soft pretzels, generously salted.  Plus, beer and cheddar fondue with spicy mustard.

The whole thing takes some time and effort, but it’s perfect for a smallish gathering.  If you’re willing to make homemade soft pretzels and fondue for more than six lucky souls…  Tell me and I’ll call the Pope so he can make you a saint already.  Or maybe Vice Pope.

It’s ambitious, sure, but not difficult.  Such a path has to start somewhere–namely, a bowl in which you get some yeast doing the thing yeast does.

After a few more boring steps (with corresponding boring photos) and an hour or so, you end up with this.

It’s okay if you don’t do anything productive while your dough rises.  I think I tried to take a nap, then looked for black velvet shorts online.

Your dough gets cut in half.  Then it gets cut in half again, then into thirds.  There are 12 (hopefully roughly equal) pieces of dough, each of which gets to become a delicious, delicious pretzel.  No one is left out.

I was THE WORST at the clay part of art class.  Everything I ever made blew up.

I should have just made a miniature Hindenburg every time.  

Cross once, cross twice, flip and forget I ever made that joke.

Anyhow.  Boiling pretzels in baking soda and water is the magic step that makes them pretzels.  Originally, lye was used (it still is, actually) to get the distinctive brown color.  Baking soda is lye lite, and in this case, I’m okay with the lite version.

Are you wondering if you can bathe in this to get a safe indoor tan?  Fact: you are not alone.

After draining and an egg wash coat/salt sprinkling, into the oven they go.  This is a good time to make cheese fondue, which goes like this: heat up (but don’t boil) some beer.  Toss a bit of flour with a bunch of grated cheese, and stir it into the warm beer in batches.  When all the cheese is incorporated and melted, we season with whatever you like, and add some mustard (jalapeno mustard if you are jalapeno-obsessed like yours truly).

That’s it…  That’s all there is to game day (or any day) bliss.  Send me a postcard when you’re Vice Pope.  XO.

Soft Pretzels and Beer-Cheddar Fondue
(Pretzel recipe from Sophisticated Gourmet; fondue adapted from Rachael Ray)

For pretzels:
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
1 cup bread flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Vegetable oil, for bowl and baking sheets
1/4 cup baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon course grain Kosher salt

For fondue:
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
4-6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup beer of your choice (I used my beloved Fat Tire amber ale)
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard (I used jalapeno mustard)
A few drops hot sauce (to taste)
A few drops Worcestershire sauce
Fresh ground black pepper 

In a small bowl, whisk together yeast, salt, sugar and water in a small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve. Leave the mixture alone until foamy, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, work the butter into the flour using a bench knife or your hands, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. With your hands, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.

Coat a large bowl with a layer of oil and place the dough inside, turning to coat with oil also. Cover bowl with plastic and let the dough rise in a reasonably warm place, until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Turn out dough onto a rolling surface, and cut into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each into an 18-inch rope and shape into a pretzel (as dutifully described in photos above). Place onto an oiled baking sheet, covering with plastic to keep from drying out while you finish the rest. Let rise for 20 minutes and preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add baking soda and 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. Boil pretzels in batches of 3-4 until puffed, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Drain on a wire rack and return to the oiled baking sheet. Make an egg wash by whisking together 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl. Brush tops of pretzels with the wash and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

To make fondue, toss cheeses with flour. Heat beer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and bubbling, but not boiling yet. Reduce the heat to low and add cheese in batches, stirring constantly, until all of it is melted and incorporated thoroughly. Remove from heat and stir in the mustard of your choice, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  Sprinkle with fresh ground pepper, if desired.

11 Responses to Soft Pretzels and Beer-Cheddar Fondue

  1. OMG. My stomach is growling just looking at these. I wish you lived around the corner, because I’d be there knocking, waiting for these!

  2. Those pretzels look absolutely delicious and I love the sound of the dip too!

  3. Pingback: Creative Fondue Ideas That’ll Do You Well | Yummly

  4. This was really entertaining to read, it convinced me I could make pretzels. But not right now because I’m lazy. Later, perhaps.

  5. I just made these and they are delicious!! What is the best way to store them overnight? Do you think they would reheat ok in the oven?

    • I’m glad to hear that! I would store them in a Ziploc bag after they’re completely cooled… As for reheating, I like to wrap them in a moist paper towel and microwave. I’m sure they’d reheat in the oven okay too–maybe you could wrap them in foil to make sure they don’t get too dry?

  6. Question: Can I use prepackaged pizza dough for the pretzels?

    • I’ve never tried it! Now that I’m poking around online, it looks like a lot of people do–just roll them out and bake. Were you planning on boiling them with the baking soda? That’s the part that makes a pretzel a pretzel–I don’t know if it would work with pizza dough, but you could definitely try it on a test pretzel–if it’s a big mess, just bake the rest?