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Pretzels und Beer Cheese!

When my friend Jill proposed baking cupcakes or something together in lieu of exchanging Christmas gifts, I asked if we could make pretzels. Rarely am I so decisive, but they’ve been on my to-bake list and I know that she likes to bake bread, too. (Also, we made cupcakes for my 30th.) This ended up happening on New Year’s Eve at the house of our friends Julie and Andrew in San Antonio. They were having a party that evening, so it seemed like a good idea to do it all in one day.

The pretzel-making got off to a late start due to (my) poor planning and traffic, but it didn’t sound like they would take too much time. We were using Alton Brown’s recipe which looked pretty basic, but the first step of proofing the yeast seemed odd: he says to put the salt in with the water, yeast, and sugar. Our yeast didn’t get very foamy, so we were worried the salt killed it, but went ahead anyway and let the dough rise while we ate dinner.

…except the dough didn’t rise very much. It was getting close to party time, so we just put the dough in the fridge hoping for a slow, overnight rise. (I was spending the night so I could get properly trashed, of course.)

The next morning, I thought it looked a bit bigger, though Julie wasn’t convinced. For comparison purposes, I usually take a photo of the dough before rising, but wasn’t thinking this time. We decided to go ahead and make pretzels with it, anyway.


not lye-ing

Pretzel assembly is very easy, really. You boil a solution of water and baking soda (or go the lye route, you crazy badass). Meanwhile, divide the dough into smaller parts (in this case, eight) and initiate Play-Doh mode: roll out really long snakes, then twist them into pretzel shapes. As a dorky musician, I couldn’t not make a treble clef. Each pretzel goes into the boiling baking soda water for 30 seconds, then gets brushed with an egg wash, and sprinkled with salt. Oh, right – we couldn’t find “pretzel salt” so just used kosher salt and all was well. Finally, they’re baked and voila! Big, beautiful pretzels.

So yeah, we were pretty impressed with ourselves because not only did they look like pretzels, the flavor and texture was spot-on. Unfortunately Jill wasn’t there for the real pretzel-making part and she didn’t even get to try one. Boo! I guess we’ll just have to bake something else, or make some more pretzels. Speaking of, if this does ever happen again, I might try dividing some of the dough into smaller pieces because it sure made some fat pretzels. Not that that’s a bad thing.

What’s that dip, you say? Why, it’s Easy Tiger beer cheese! Hilah Johnson posted the recipe on her blog a while ago and I figured that if and when I made pretzels, I had to make beer cheese as well. If you’ve been to Easy Tiger, you know what I’m talking about. If not, it’s kind of like pimento cheese (but have you had GOOD pimento cheese?) with beer, minus pimentos. Or it’s like cold, spreadable beer cheese soup, if that’s a more imaginable thing. FYI: unless you’re bringing it to a party, you might want to halve the recipe because it makes a ton. A ton = over twice as much as pictured.

Happiness is a warm pretzel.