Salty yet sweet, with a chewy exterior and a warm, buttery interior, the soft pretzel has long been a mainstay at sporting events, as a street snack, and at the beer garden alongside your favorite lager. While we have much respect for the giant, doughy pretzel with fat flakes of salt, we’re particularly partial to anything bite-sized. Way easier to share (we’re looking at you, friends who tear off the largest piece at the bar and proceed to double dip), pretzel bites are truly the way to go. Speaking of double dipping, pretzel bites would be nothing without their best friend, melty nacho cheese. Whether you add beer, make it vegan, or go classic, you’ll definitely want seconds—or thirds—of this treat.
So prep your kitchen surface, pick up a six-pack or two, and invite your friends over—this is a recipe you’re going to want to share. They didn’t leave the Plated Test Kitchen.
Yield: 4 dozen pretzel bites
.5 cup warm, not hot, water
.5 envelope active dry yeast
.75 cup bread flour
.75 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1.5 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
8 cups water
.5 cup baking soda
Pretzel salt or kosher salt
In a large bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Let stand until a creamy foam develops on the surface (the yeast has bloomed), about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir to combine flours, brown sugar, and 1.5 teaspoon salt. Add dry ingredients and butter to yeast mixture, and stir together until dough comes together. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead dough until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. Alternatively, place yeast mixture in bowl of stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add butter and flour mixture to bowl, combine ingredients in a low speed, 1-2 minutes. Then, increase speed to medium and process until dough is smooth and elastic, 4-6 minutes more.
Transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl and turn over to coat with oil. Cover with a lightly moistened kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until doubled, 2 to 3 hours. Alternatively, after kneading, let dough rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, then transfer to oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in refrigerator until doubled, 12 hours-2 days.
Punch down dough and divide into quarters. Divide each quarter into 2 balls. Roll each ball into a 12-inch-long rope, then divide each rope into six, 2-inch pieces.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drizzle parchment with 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.
In a medium pot, bring water and baking soda to a boil; foam with dissipate. To boiling water, add 12 pretzel bites. Cook 30 seconds, remove from water with slotted spoon, transfer to baking sheet, and immediately sprinkle pretzel bites on both sides with pretzel salt. Repeat with remaining pretzel bites, working in batches as needed.
Bake pretzel bites in oven, until deep brown, 8-10 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup mild white cheddar, shredded
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When butter is foaming, whisk in flour until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually add milk and cream, and cook, whisking constantly, until incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Add jalapeno, garlic powder, onion powder and smoked paprika and continue cooking until slightly thickened, about 1 minute more. Add cheese and stir until melted, 1–2 minutes. If mixture is too thick, add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Yields 2.25 cups
.5 cup lager
2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
1 garlic clove, minced
.25 cup onion, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1.5 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
In a small pot, bring beer to a boil over high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and simmer minute. Transfer beer to a small bowl and allow to cool.
In a food processor, process sharp and mild cheddar, garlic, onion, ketchup, Dijon mustard, mustard powder, Worcestershire, and hot sauce, until very smooth, 1-2 minutes. With processor running, drizzle in beer. Continue processing until completely combined, 1 minute more. Serve immediately or chill in fridge until beer cheese has firmed up, about 1-2 hours.
Vegan nacho cheese
(Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen Vegan for Everybody)
12 ounces russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1‐inch pieces
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into ½‐inch pieces (⅓ cup)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup finely chopped onion
⅓ cup minced poblano chile
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
⅛ teaspoon ground cumin
⅛ teaspoon mustard powder
Bring 2 quarts water to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Add potatoes and carrot and cook until tender, about 12 minutes; drain in colander.
Combine cooked vegetables, ⅓ cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, nutritional yeast, vinegar, and salt in blender. Pulse until chopped and combined, about 10 pulses, scraping down sides of blender jar as needed. (You will need to stop processing to scrape down sides of blender jar several times for mixture to come together.) Process mixture on high speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and poblano and cook until softened and lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chipotle, cumin, and mustard and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds; remove from heat.
Stir processed potato mixture into onion-poblano mixture in saucepan and bring to brief simmer over medium heat to heat through. Transfer to bowl and serve immediately.
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