Monday, August 10, 2009

Soft Pretzels and Queso

A few weeks ago Jeff and I tried making soft pretzel. We used a recipe that I got from a blog (that I then lost), and it didn't work out for us. The dough was super dry, thick, and super salty. Instead of trying again with that recipe (I had to throw out the dough, sigh), Jeff and I agreed to wait until I felt in the mood to do so much work for baking again, and I made Alton Brown's recipe.

Now let me explain. I LOVE soft pretzels. Jeff and I get them pretty often. I love getting the salty ones and eating them with spicy cheese. He loves getting the cinnamon sugar ones. I love eating those too, so it works out for me. In college I'd eat tons of those microwavable Super Pretzels.... which I admit aren't amazing, but I really liked eating them anyway.

Pretzels aren't exactly easy to make, so I don't blame myself for eating the ones from the mall and/or the ones from the freezer. I do like the few places (mostly in Florida) I've eaten at that gave me big soft pretzels to eat instead of bread. That's awesome!

Anyway, I made these at Jeff's apartment. I don't have any of my fancy salts, or kosher salt. His roommate has sea salt, and I thought that would do just fine for the crisp salt on top. WRONG. It was much too fine and melted in-- oh well, it was still tasty, and salty, even if I didn't get that crispness. Now I know for next time.

The pretzels were really good. The dough had an awesome texture, though they cooked faster than ol' A.B. said they would. The baking soda added some weird flavor, but I liked it. They were good!! We brought a bunch of them down with us to comic con to snack on, but unfortunately they sort of went stale by then... so that didn't work out that well for us.


I still have one in the freezer to make into a cinnamon sugar pretzel though. It's like my own Super Pretzel.

As you can see the dough is dense, but the outsides were nice and firm and chewy. It had a really great texture, I was really proud of myself.

And as I said before, I LOVE to dip pretzels in spicy cheese, so I made a queso dip to go with it. This is a super easy recipe that I took and like 1/8th forever ago, but then also sort of made my own. Jeff doesn't like spicy things so this queso wasn't really as spicy as I probably would have made it if it were my own cheese sauce, but it was still very good with our pretzels. We ended up eating all of it.

I think I'd be happy to make these again, Jeff and I were talking about actually making pretzel bread out of it so that we could have sandwiches on it. I really like that idea, though I'd have to figure out how to boil the loaves. I don't have the biggest kitchen and/or pots. I'll have to think about that and get back to ya'll about it... but in the meantime, I have other breads in my head to work on. I don't make bread often (it's a lot of work!!), but I do like it when I do. :) I used to make it more in college, but... well, I got lazy, I guess.

I'm going to work harder to change that for sure.

Soft Pretzels
Recipe by Alton Brown

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt/Kosher Salt/Cinnamon Sugar

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, 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, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

If you're going to use cinnamon sugar, sprinkle the pretzels with it after the baking and hold the salt.

15 Minute Queso Dip
Recipe from my hand written cookbook from college. I don't know where I got it, Rachel Ray?
2 tsp butter
2 tsp flour
2/3 c milk
pinch smoked paprika
some cajun spice (1/8 tsp?)
2/3 c shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, colby-jack, and mozzerellas are good ones to mix)
1/3 c salsa

Heat pot over medium heat and add the butter. Heat until melted, but not browning. Add the flour and cook one minute, whisking and making sure not to cook to brown. Whisk in the milk and seasoning. Allow the sauce to thicken for a minute or two. Add the cheese and let melt, stirring and allowing to thicken. Add the salsa and serve.


Bina said...

Long time viewer, first time commenter. I enjoy your recipes tremendously and I'm new to cooking so I have a kind-of-stupid question to ask you. When you wrote "1 package active dry yeast" do you mean those little packets that are like the size of your palm?

Stephanesia said...

Yeah, they're like 2 1/4 teaspoon servings. They usually come in threes, and you can get either active dry or fast rising!
Glad you've stopped by! :) I'm glad you like my posts. I'm all giddy and blushing.

NikiTheo said...

I have to say, there is nothing better than a burger on a pretzel roll!!! There is a burger place in Chicago called Kuma's Corner that serves all of their burgers on a pretzel roll and there is NOTHING better than that!!!!
And this recipe is one of the only Alton Brown recipes I really love. I've made them before, still all twisted, but real tightly twisted so there were no holes and sliced that for a sandwich, but I think they would be better suited for a sandwich as a roll!

Chris Hernandez said...

Rather then making a giant loaf and make slices why not make little rocket rolls. That way you get all the crispy crunch crust of a pretzel in tiny form. Good work with the cheese dip, sounds really good. Nice job.

phoenix said...

I'm kind of a Philly lover, so even though I'm about 2 hours south I still make sure to grab some pretzels whenever I'm in town. I never really thought about making them myself, even though I remember that episode where AB made them and showed how easy it could be (even without Lye!).

That being said though, I'm more interested in that queso dip! It looks delicious, and I love all things cheese. I may have to borrow it, but you said it wasn't as spicy as you would have liked? Any tips for next time? :D

Peggy said...

i definitely dig the burger between pretzel roll idea! dip sounds delish and could be used as the cheese on top of the burger!

Stephanesia said...

Thanks everyone! I thought of doing rolls too, and that might work better than actual bread. I think I was thinking longer, thin rolls, like mini baguettes!

I think just added some spicy salsa (instead of mild) and some chipotle powder (instead of paprika) would definitely help. Even some hot sauce would be nice. Jeff doesn't like spicy things, so it's not the recipes fault it wasn't as spicy as I'd like. I did it intentionally, haha.

Mm, Pretzel Queso Burger. That sounds amazing. Just throw some avacado on there...