Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Salty Soft Nuggets of Amazingness

Last Christmas I had saga o' the burning ham and cheese rolls, this year, no saga, just delicious Pretzel Bites.  I guess if there was any drama it would be how dramatically lumpy and gross the cheese sauce I made was - yuck!  We won't talk about that...
We worked quickly before church on Christmas Eve to get the bites boiled and baked.  Off to church we went, then Andy's folks came to church with us and came back to our house for appetizers.  Bronwyn loved the bites, kept asking for more and more.  Her grandma also thoroughly enjoyed them.  I think we should make them again - many many more to just sit and eat ourselves silly with them.  This time I think I will buy some cheese sauce, it'll be way less lumpy.

Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites
Soft Pretzels:
 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 kosher salt
 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
 Vegetable oil
 3 quarts water
 1/2 cup baking soda
 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
 Coarse sea salt

For the cheese sauce: (good luck!)
 ½ Tablespoon unsalted butter
 ½ Tablespoon all-purpose flour
 ½ cup milk
 8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated

For the Pretzels: Combine the 1 1/2 cups 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.

Add the salt and flour 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.

Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the 3 quarts of water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Serve with cheese sauce.

To make the cheese sauce:
 Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

*If you want to make cinnamon and sugar pretzel bites-instead of adding salt, sprinkle the bites with cinnamon and sugar. For the frosting mix-soft cream cheese-about 3 T, powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a little bit of milk. Whisk together. Add more milk if it is too thick, if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. I don't measure. I just guess until the consistency is right.*

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