These golden pillow-y beer pretzels are salted and hardened on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Served with a white cheddar beer sauce, it’s perfection all around.
“Oh no—not another recipe with beer!” (Said no one, ever.)
There are two types of recipes that I get excited about posting most—delicious pasta dishes and recipes that include beer.
Back in May my pal Jared, owner and creator of The Hesitant Chef, asked me to develop a recipe and write up a guest post for him.
If you don’t know Jared, you need to rectify that. Not only does he provide his readers with delicious nosh like salmon gravlax and homemade cream cheese, but the guy also brews his own beers and ciders. WHAT. I wish I had those bragging rights.
If anything pairs well with beer, it’s a salty snack—like pretzels. And it just so happens that beer has yeast in it. What is yeast great for? Dough. So making beer pretzels was a bit of a no-brainer.
Oh, it gets better.
As I was deciding on what type of beer to use (I went with a Bavarian lager), I thought that including a homemade cheese sauce for dipping would be wise. You CANNOT have a salted pillow-y pretzel without a warm cheese sauce. (I can’t, anyway.)
Ah, and guess what makes a cheese sauce even better? Yes. Beer. Are you sensing a theme here? (The theme isn’t alcoholism, I promise.)
Let’s chat about a few things first.
Let me preface this by saying I’m not very experienced with dough and this was my first time making pretzels. I had no idea what sort of consistency I was looking for, but common sense suggested it should feel like homemade pizza dough so I hoped for that. Thankfully the dough turned out wonderfully; it was easy to mix, easy to knead and easy to shape.
This dough needs to rest for an hour. Once that hour is up, cut it into 8 segments and roll each segment into 18-20-inch long dough ropes.
Once you roll out a dough rope, take the two ends and form a circle. Then, cross the two ends over from one another, approx. half an inch. Twist the ends around once and fold the ends to the bottom of the pretzel. Pinch the ends at the bottom of the pretzel to seal and secure.
Before putting these bad boys into the oven, you want to give each of them a 30-second soak in boiling water with baking soda. This is an example of science in baking and why it’s important. The boiling process helps the interior of the pretzel “puff” and a crust begins to form. If you skip boiling, you’ll be robbed of the chewiness that you long for in a soft pretzel. The addition of baking soda increases the pH bringing it to the basic/alkaline end of the scale and it gelatinizes the crust. This helps achieve that sexy golden exterior with a crackled surface and hints of pulled crust.
Once done, brush the pretzel tops with your egg wash and hit those bad boys with some coarse Kosher or sea salt.
Now, you’ll notice these big puffy pretzels don’t quite look like your standard symmetrical stadium pretzels. In all honesty, I’m kind of thrilled about this. Though I do love me some stadium pretzels, there is just something really inviting and comforting about these warm, golden puffs and their homespun aesthetic. They are like a pretzel-bagel-brioche hybrid and that can never be a bad thing. When you pull one of these pretzels apart, the pillow-y goodness inside is a total dream.
The only thing that can make it better is, of course, a warm and gooey cheese dip.
The Cheese Sauce.
This is the kind of cheese dip you’ll want to keep dunkin’ into, so if you’re against double dipping, get over it.
I did some homework on different beer + cheese dipping sauces and tried a few new tricks, but I decided to scratch’em and roll with what I know: my trusted method for creamy mac and cheese sauce. It’s never failed me and I wanted to provide you with a trustworthy method.
Something worth noting is the importance of your beer being at room temperature. This is SO important. Adding cold beer to a cheese sauce will break the sauce resulting in a frothy pool full of curds. No bueno.
Another little trick—I’m a firm believer in starting a good cheese sauce off with a roux. I’ve run into some people who claim that the roux is an unnecessary step and I couldn’t disagree more. I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right—to each their own—but in my experience, the roux ensures a nice and thick velvety texture that will make your toes curl and your tastebuds sing. Who could pass that up?
The best part of this cheese sauce is that you can actually taste the beer-y goodness. Needless to say, all of this pairs amazingly well with a nice cold beer.
The type of beer you use is an important choice to make. While reading up on other recipes, I came across some instances where people tried using IPAs and were sorely disappointed. IPAs can be great for meat marinades and glazes, but it’s seemingly not as welcomed in the world of breads and cheeses due to it’s bitter notes. Based on these findings, I avoided the IPA and went with a trusty lager. Lager always seems safe. I wouldn’t mind trying a porter or whit sometime, but if you’re looking for that beloved classic beer flavor, a lager or pilsner is totally where it’s at.
And now I’m finally just going to tell you how to make this.
Beer Pretzels with Drunken White Cheddar Sauce
- 1 12 oz bottle of lager or pilsner
- 1/4 oz active dry yeast 2.25 teaspoon
- 2 tablespoons butter melted
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups + 1.5 all-purpose flour divided
- 10 cups of water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg yolk, beaten
- 2 tablespoons beer
- Coarse kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup lager or pilsner room temperature
- 8 oz aged white cheddar shredded
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- In a sauce pan, heat the beer over moderate heat bringing it to a temperature of 115°. Remove from heat and stir in the yeast. Stir until dissolved.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, salt, beer/yeast mixture, and 3 cups of flour. Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Gradually add the remaining 1.5 cups of flour to form a softer dough (note the dough will be sticky - this is normal).
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and smooth (this took me about 7 minutes)
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once to grease all of the doughs’ surface, and cover with a dry towel. Place in a warm place until the dough has risen. This should take about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- Punch down on the dough.
- Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide into eight pieces. Shape each piece into a ball, and then roll each ball into an 18-20 inch rope.
- Bend the ends of each rope, forming a circle, and cross the two ends over from one another, approx. half an inch. Twist the ends around once, and fold the ends to the bottom of the pretzel. Pinch the ends to the bottom of the pretzel to seal and secure.
- In a dutch oven, bring the water and baking soda to a boil.
- With a slotted spoon, carefully immerse pretzels, two at a time, into the boiling water and allow to simmer for 30 seconds. Remove the pretzels with slotted spoon and set on paper towels to dry.
- Once done, place the pretzels on a baking sheet approx. 2 inches apart from one another.
- Mix the topper ingredients together in a bowl and gently brush each pretzel top with the wash; finish by sprinkling coarse salt over the pretzel tops.
- Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.
- While the pretzels cool, you can start on your cheese sauce.
Cheese Sauce (Yields 1 cup).
- Melt butter in a large saucepan over moderate heat. Gradually whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour. Continue to whisk until a thick roux forms.
- While whisking, slowly and gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to avoid any clumps.
- Bring the heat up a bit so the milk comes to a boil, and whisk until the roux has dissolved into the milk, thickening the sauce.
- While whisking, slowly add 1/2 cup of beer.
- Allow to simmer until the sauce thickens again.
- Add the shredded cheese and stir until the cheese melts.
- If the sauce is too thick, you can gradually add more beer as you whisk until you reach a desired consistency.
- Add the Dijon mustard.
- Season with kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste.
- Serve with the pretzels.