With September winding down and October very closely on the horizon... (as in TOMORROW -what?!?!!)
... It brings about a certain festival you might be familiar with: Oktoberfest. This year Germany has sadly canceled the official Oktoberfest celebration (the theme of 2020) but with these homemade pretzels you can still celebrate at home!
My family does have German roots and while I don't personally participate in any Oktoberfest celebrations I am always down for a pretzel and this was a nice excuse to slip these into the baking schedule. Hot pretzels are my KRYPTONITE -especially this particular recipe. Soft, hot, salty, buttery- then dip it in a spicy beer cheese? DROOLING.
Makes: ~ 12 large pretzels
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
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Kitchen scale (optional)
Parchment paper or silicone baking sheet
Hand mixer or stand mixer
Measuring cups and spoons
2 cups milk (480ml) *whole milk preferred, but skim, 1% or 2% can be used
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup (70g) light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 + 1/8 teaspoons salt
6 cups (720 grams) all-purpose flour, plus ~1/4 extra for humid climates
Baking Soda Wash
2 cups of water
1/3 cup baking soda
4 tablespoons melted butter
Pretzel salt or course salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 small clove garlic, minced (or 1/4 tsp garlic powder)
2 Tablespoons yellow onion, minced (or 1/4 tsp onion powder)
1 small jalapeño (seeds removed and minced)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup beer
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup (4 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (4 oz), shredded cheese of choice (can do more sharp cheddar OR other rec's are mozzarella, swiss or gouda)
*You can make the beer cheese first, last or while the pretzels rise. The pretzels take much longer, so I would suggest getting the dough rising first, then starting on the cheese.*
Beer Cheese: Start by melting the butter and then add the minced jalapeños, onion and salt. Cook for a couple of minutes, until the jalapeños and onions soften slightly. Then, add the flour and stir the mixture around well. By adding the flour here, you are starting a "roux" which will be what thickens and holds together your cheese sauce. Cook the flour mixture for about about 2 minutes.
Next, stir in the following slowly and whisk well after each addition: milk, beer, mustard. Cook until thick and bubbly.
Reduce heat to very low and add the shredded cheese a small handful at a time. Stir until each addition has just melted and the sauce is smooth. May need additional salt or seasonings depending on how salty the cheese you selected is. Serve warm with your pretzels. Also is delicious with apple slices!
Pretzels: Scald milk (this means heat until it is JUST about to boil, but do not bring to a boil. You can do on the stovetop or microwave, but be careful with the microwave that your milk does not bubble over).
Add butter and sugar to the hot milk. Stir until the butter melts and the sugar has dissolved. Set it aside until it is a little warmer than room temperature (or if you have a kitchen thermometer, when it gets in between 105-115 degrees F). This is the ideal temperature for your yeast to activate. Too cold and it won't fully activate, too hot and it will kill the yeast.
Once at the appropriate temperature, pour yeast on the top o the milk mixture and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Using a bread hook attachment on a stand mixer, add in your flour and the remaining salt. Stir slowly to combine, adding up to 1/4 cup extra flour if very sticky (it should be able to pull away from the sides of the bowl decently). You can also stir by hand and knead by hand in the next step if you do not have a stand mixer or hook attachment.
Knead bread for 5-10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
Cover the bowl and let it rise for 1 hour (or until the dough doubles in size). After it finishes rising, punch down the dough in the bowl.
Place the dough on a clean surface then cut into 12 equal pieces. You can always cut into more and smaller pieces to make a smaller pretzel.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Roll a piece of your dough into a long and skinny rope (Auntie Anne's style pretzel will be about 36 inches. For a thicker pretzel, like pictured, roll to about 16-20 inches. It does not have to be exact, just to give you an idea).
Loop the dough in half and then twist the ends together twice then pull the ends back over the loop to make the classic pretzel shape. Lightly press the ends in to make them stick.
Here is a video I found really helpful myself when first learning to roll out a pretzel:
Heat water until it is nearly boiling and then mix in baking soda. For a softer Auntie Anne's style pretzel, only dip your pretzels in, making sure to get both sides thoroughly saturated. For a thicker "crust" or a darker and chewier pretzel, you will want to actually boil the water and let the pretzels boil for 30 seconds on each side.
After the baking soda bath, place the pretzels onto a parchment lined or silicone baking sheet lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with pretzel or course salt.
Bake for about 8 minutes for a thin pretzel, about 15 minutes for a thicker pretzel. They should be golden brown and feel crisp on the surface when you lightly poke the pretzel.
As soon as they come out of the oven, brush with melted butter
Then, as soon as they are cool enough that they won't scald you or your tongue DIVE IN.