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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Soft Pretzel Bites with Spicy Cheese Dip

Each week I invite my girlfriends over to my house and we watch/criticize/laugh at the current episode of The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad. Its serious trash and we seriously love it. Some weeks I feel like making a particularly yummy snack (more than just opening up a bag of chips) and this was one of those weeks. Overall, the recipe was very good. The dough was salty and ever-so-slightly-sweet  and it made a TON- the six of us didn't come close to finishing them off... and all six of us can put a hurtin' on some food. Pretzel recipe adapted from Alton Brown.

1 1/2 cups warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoon instant/quick yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour (~4 1/2 cups)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
vegetable oil
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Kosher salt

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, yeast, sugar, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and 4 tablespoons of melted butter; mix on low speed until well combined. Increase speed to medium and knead dough until its smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl (somewhere between 3-5 minutes). Remove dough from bowl and transfer to a large well-oiled boil. Cover with plastic wrap tightly and set in your oven with the light on (but no heat!). Let rise just shy of an hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

Once dough has finished rising, remove from oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Bring the 10 cups of water and baking soda to a rolling boil in a large pot (the baking soda will cause the water to fizz, but make sure it reaches a true boil- 212 degrees F). 

Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 24-inch rope then slice each rope into 1-inch pieces. Place a lightly damp towel over cut pretzel pieces so they don't dry out. 

Using a slotted spoon, place a handful of the pretzel bites into the boiling water and boil for ~30 seconds, flipping them around a few times. Remove using the slotted spoon, drain as best you can, and place on the baking sheets. Continue until all pretzels are done boiling. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle generously with more salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 10-12 minutes. Serve warm with cheese sauce or marinara. OR, if you want to make sweet pretzel bites, toss with a cinnamon-sugar mixture instead of more salt. 

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
2 ounced diced green chiles
8 ounces fontina cheese, freshly grated
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne (to taste)
salt & pepper

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk together, stirring for about 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking to combine. Pop in the garlic, jalapeno, and diced green chiles and cook about 15 minutes, until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add the cheese and cayenne and taste for heat, salt, and pepper. Serve immediately.

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