Football season is back and that means football snacks are back. Soft pretzels with hard cider cheese dip are a crowd pleaser, and replacing the traditional beer cheese with hard cider cheese makes the combination even more seasonal.
For a while now I have wanted to work on recipes that involve yeast to try to break out of my usual mold and challenge myself. I struggle every time I make something (or try to make something) with yeast. Sometimes the dough is way to sticky, it doesn’t stay fluffy after it gets punched down, the products are dense, you name it, I’ve had that fail. This time, the product tasted delicious, but didn’t turn out as photogenic as I would have liked. I hesitated to post this, not because of the recipe, but because of the photos that accompanied it. It really is too good not to share, which is ultimately why I am posting these not-so-pretty pretzel pictures, but I want to reassure you that yours will probably look better.
I got the idea for these soft pretzels and hard cider cheese dip after sharing the most delicious pretzel I have ever had with Will and his cousin at Raleigh Beer Garden (locals, go get one asap!). We split the beer-battered pretzel appetizer and I thought about it for weeks after we devoured it. I didn’t know a pretzel could be so good. These soft pretzels are baked and not beer-battered, but they are still so much better than the soft pretzels you buy at the store. They have a slight sweetness to them that pairs so well with the sharp savory flavors of the hard cider cheese dip and the traditional dip, mustard. While I was making them I questioned if it was worth the effort and the time it takes to work with the yeasted dough. Now that I have tasted them I would absolutely 100 percent make them again. Maybe next time I can work on their appearance ;)
The hard cider cheese dip is one of my favorite fall recipes I have made so far this season. It has the flavors of traditional beer cheese, but with a more crisp, not quite as strong alcohol flavor. It is great with these soft pretzels, but also with crackers, chips, pita and vegetables for a great game day platter.
I’m so excited to welcome fall with football, apples, soft pretzels and hard apple cider cheese dip. Now if the weather would just stay cool.
Soft Pretzels and Hard Cider Cheese Dip
1 ½ cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups flour
¼ cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk (or water)
course sea salt, for sprinkling
Hard Cider Cheese Dip
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup milk
¾ cup hard cider
1 tsp. dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
12 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 2/3 cups slightly packed grated cheese)
salt and pepper, to taste
To Make Soft Pretzels
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment combine the water, sugar, yeast and butter and mix until combined. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and 4 ½ cups of flour to the mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. This took at least 5 minutes for me. If the dough is wet, add more flour, a few tablespoons at a time. [note: I made these on a very humid day, which I think is why they were more finicky. Because of this I used all 5 cups of flour.] Remove the dough from the bowl and, on a flat surface, knead it into a ball with your hands.
Coat a large bowl with canola or vegetable oil, add the dough to the bowl and swirl it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Boil a pot of water (about 4-6 cups) and add ¼ cup baking soda to the pot. While the water is heating, divide the pretzel dough into medium-sized balls (mine were about the size of a baseball) and roll each out into a rope. Take the two ends of each rope and form a circle with a few inches of the ends overlapping at the top. Twist those extra inches and lay them over the circle to create a pretzel shape.
Dunk each pretzel into the boiling water for 30-45 seconds. Remove them from the water with a large slotted spatula and place them on your baking sheet. After you have done this with each pretzel, beat together the egg and the milk (or water) and brush the egg wash over each pretzel. Sprinkle each pretzel with salt or seasoning and bake for about 12-16 minutes, or until dark golden brown.
To Make Hard Cider Cheese Dip
In a saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and flour and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly to get the clumps out and prevent burning. The mixture should be a golden color. Slowly whisk in the milk and hard cider. Increase the heat a little bit and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cook, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to thicken. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
Add in the cheese, a handful at a time, whisking after each addition until that handful has melted completely before adding the next batch. Stir in any salt and pepper, to taste. Serve immediately. While the cheese does begin to congeal after sitting out for too long, it is great when heated back up and mixed together again.