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soft pretzel bites with cheese sauce

March 7, 2012

So, obviously, once I discovered the true magic of homemade pretzels, I knew I couldn’t stay away. And indeed, I did not. I’ve actually made pretzels twice since then, but one thing at a time.

Equally-obviously, as soon as these entered my radar, I needed them immediately. I mean, it’s basically mac and cheese, but with pretzels instead of pasta. Could that be any more perfect? I knew I had to have them for the Superbowl. (Yes, I’m that far behind in my recipe backlog. And no, the menfolk in my family are not yet done mourning the Pats. Let’s not talk about it.)

Anyway, these were just as perfect as they could possibly be. And actually, to add to their glory, it’s pretty hard for these not to be delicious, unless you use bad yeast or something. Even if you boil them a little too long, they’ll still have that awesome, tangy-delicate-metallic outer shell unique to pretzels, and they’ll still be fluffy and wonderful on the inside. And the mac and cheese sauce will still be cheesy. And now that I know you can pop the baked pretzels in the freezer and reheat in the oven at 425 degrees for 5 or 10 minutes, they will be a constant in my life. They will!

Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
22 oz. (about 4 cups) all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
pretzel or kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

1. For the pretzels, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the water, yeast, sugar, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and 4 tablespoons butter; mix on low speed until well-combined. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, about 50 to 55 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
3. Bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in a wide, 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
4. Turn the dough out onto a work surface sprayed with nonstick cooking spray and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope and slice each rope into 1-inch pieces. Cover loosely with plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out, and roll and cut the other pieces.
5. Using a slotted spoon, lower a few pretzel pieces into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds, flipping them around in the water with a spoon a few times. Remove the pretzels from the water with the slotted spoon, shake the spoon to drain, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with the 2 tablespoons melted butter and sprinkle with the pretzel or kosher salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 10-12 minutes. Brush with remaining melted butter before serving.
6. While the pretzels bake, for the cheese sauce, in a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
7. Slowly whisk in the milk  until smooth. Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. The mixture should be ready when you can dip a spoon in it, drag your finger across the back of the spoon (after you’ve taken it out of the molten milk, obviously), and leave a trail where your finger was. Once you’ve gotten to that point, remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Add a pinch of salt, if needed. If, after you and your cohabitants have vultured down over the pretzels the second they came out of the oven, you’re brining whatever’s left to a party, once you’re there, you can reheat the room temperature pretzels for about 5 minutes in a 425 degree oven and pop the cheese sauce in the microwave to warm up. Trust me, congealed cheese sauce–while delicious–is not exactly appealing.

Source: Smells Like Home

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