I might as well call this post “Aw, carbs, why you gotta be so good!” because confession: I am completely and totally powerless in the face of chewy, soft, salty pretzels especially when they are dunked in a creamy made from scratch cheese sauce.
These. These pretzel twists, reminiscent of every pretzel I’ve ever had at an outdoor baseball game or indoor mall food court (only a zillion times better), are my solace and comfort and true happiness. I could live on them and be completely satisfied (and even be ok with a side of broccoli thrown in because, yeah, cheese sauce). Bread and cheese forever.
And while these pretzels are completely other-worldly, I have to say that this cheese sauce is pretty much earth shattering. I’ve made a few cheese sauces in the past with the classic butter/flour roux, milk, and cheese and while they are rich and saucy, they just don’t cut it in the dunk-and-be-happy department for pretzels calling for extreme cheese factor and super creaminess without the grainy texture that sometimes comes with those flour-based cheese sauces. So taking a lesson from my recent fondue victory, I made three or thirty versions of a classic cheddar version and oh, my cheese sauce. It’s luxurious and thick and perfectly melty and cheesy. The key is keeping it warm because no one likes gloppy, cold cheese sauce. Am I right or am I right?
So if you are as excited about pretzels and cheese as I am, this post is dedicated to you. And if you are as inept as I am at following pretzel-twisting directions without a visual, the pictures below the recipe are just for you. I’m out to make the world happy and peaceful through amazing pretzels, homemade glorious cheese sauce and picture collages. Bring on the carbs and cheese, baby.
I took a note from my favorite chewy pretzel bites recipe and instead of boiling the pretzels, I dipped them in a mixture of hot water and baking soda. It makes the recipe slightly easier without having to clean out a big, ol' pot; however, if you want even more extreme chewiness, consider following the boiling steps in this recipe instead of dunking in the water/soda solution. Your call!
Also, for the cheese sauce, don't be tempted to use preshredded cheese. It's coated with an anti-caking powder that means it doesn't melt the same as cheese shredded by your own little hands. It's worth the extra few minutes, I promise!
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2/3 cup milk, warmed
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1/2 tablespoon instant yeast
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 3/4 - 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (about 15 ounces)
- 4 cups hot water + 1/2 cup baking soda for dipping
- 1 large egg + 1 tablespoon water
- Coarse, kosher salt for sprinkling
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese (don't use preshredded)
- 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese (don't use preshredded)
- Dash of paprika
- Salt to taste
- For the pretzel dough, in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or in a large bowl, if mixing by hand), combine the water, milk, oil, yeast, salt and 1-2 cups of flour. Mix until well combined. Gradually add the remaining flour until the dough clears the sides of the bowl. Knead for 3-4 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.
- Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with saran wrap lightly coated with cooking spray. Let the dough rise until doubled, about an hour or so depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- Gently deflate the dough and on a lightly greased or floured counter, pat the dough into a rough 9X12-inch rectangle. Using a pizza wheel or sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 equal strips, about an inch or so wide.
- One at a time, take a strip of dough and roll it into a very long, thin rope, about 24-inches long. If the long rope keeps shrinking when you let go, let the dough rest for 5-10 minutes before continuing to roll.
- Fold the rope in half (follow the pictures below if a visual will help), and starting with the loop end, twist down the length of the dough. Grab the end without the loop and fold it up to meet the other end and then bring it underneath so you have a shape similar to the ribbon associated with cancer awareness (random, but it works) with the loop end on top. Gently pry the loop open with your fingers and bring the other end through the opening and tuck underneath. Behold, the twist is complete!
- Repeat with the remaining strips.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and place an oven rack right above the middle position. Whisk together the hot water and baking soda. One by one, dip the pretzel twists into the water mixture and place them on a lightly greased parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Whisk together the egg and water and brush a layer of egg wash on top of each pretzel followed by a sprinkle of coarse salt.
- Let the pretzel twists rest for 10 minutes. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Immediately out of the oven, brush on the melted butter.
- For the cheese sauce, in a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Toss the cheeses and cornstarch together until evenly coated. One small handful at a time, add the cheese to the simmering broth, stirring constantly in a slow, S-shape pattern. Let the cheese melt before adding the next handful. Once all the cheese has been added and it has melted, stir in the paprika and any additional salt to taste, if needed. Keep the cheese sauce warm over low heat (don't let it simmer or boil) or in a small crockpot or fondue pot. The cheese sauce can be refrigerated and warmed over low heat, if needed (add a tablespoon of milk or broth to loosen it up a bit while reheating).
Recipe Source: pretzel twists adapted from these amazing soft pretzel rolls, cheese sauce from me after lots of experimenting to get it just right