This is my second time trying my luck with soft pretzels. I don't even want to be reminded of my first attempt at making homemade pretzels. If I could throw a rock to hurt somebody, those pretzels would do a very fine job. It has been years since I even thought about making pretzels again until recently when I saw a post on my Facebook page about homemade soft pretzels from a food blogger. The pretzel picture looked so delightful and enticing that I almost wanted to reach into the screen and grab that pretzel. So forget about my first painful experience with pretzels, I immediately looked up the recipe and made my plan for the second attempt without hesitation.
I have to say, the result is beyond my expectation. The fresh hot, crusty-on-the-outside and soft-in-the-inside pretzels taste heavenly. Especially when it is accompanied with the creamy, savory cheese sauce, you can forget about the world around you. The recipe is such a breeze to make and with just a couple hours in the kitchen, you will be rewarded with some fantastic homemade good eat. These soft pretzels are best when they are fresh hot out of the oven, but I don't think you will have to worry about left-over, stale pretzels because there won't be any.
(Recipe adapted from Two peas and their pod, original recipe adapted from Bobby Flay)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs (The original recipe called for fresh chopped rosemary)
Canola oil, to grease bowl
3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda (I used only 1/4 cups)
1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water or milk
Coarse sea salt
For the Cheese Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste and a dash of garlic powder
1. To make the pretzels: combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add the salt, flour, and rosemary to the mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope.
6.To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula or a spider. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.
7. Remove pretzels from oven and let cool on a wire baking rack.
8. To make the Rosemary Cheese Sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour. Pour in the milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. Stir in shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with pretzels.