Sunday afternoons lend themselves easily to snacking. Whether there's just two of you, staying in and watching football games or movies, or you've got a group of friends coming over to watch the game, you'll want to whip up a batch of these pretzel bites and a savory cheddar-mustard dip to go with them.
I usually prepare pretzels and pretzel rolls the same way every time I make them -- after I make the dough and shape them, I poach them in a mixture of baking soda and water, brush them with an egg wash, sprinkle them with salt, and bake them -- but I recently read that you can bake baking soda to get results similar to using a lye solution (which is typically not recommended for home cooks but is used for signature pretzel flavor). I figured I would give it a try. At the very least it would eliminate the step of brushing the pretzels with an egg wash.
I wouldn't say these pretzel bites came out any more pretzel-y than poached pretzels, but I did find bathing the bites in baked baking soda and water easier than poaching. The baking soda needs an hour in the oven, so it can be baked while the pretzel dough proofs. Then it's just a matter of soaking the pretzel bites in the baked baking soda and water bath for 4 minutes per batch, rinsing them in a clean water bath, transferring them to a baking sheet, sprinkling them with salt, and baking them. The pretzels bake for just long enough to give you time to whip up some cheddar-mustard sauce to go with them.
These soft pretzel nuggets get a little crunchy crust on the bottom and are the perfect game-time treat, especially when paired with creamy cheddar-mustard dipping sauce.
Soft Pretzel Bites (adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)
2 3/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus softened butter for bowl
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking soda
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Combine 3/4 cup warm water, brown sugar, yeast, melted butter, salt, and flour in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium, and continue to mix until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and starts to form a ball.
Dump dough out onto counter, and knead into a ball.
Rub inside of glass bowl with some soft butter, add the dough ball, and turn to coat with butter.
Cover bowl, and let dough rise in warm spot for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
While dough is rising, spread baking soda on foil-lined baking sheet, and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour. Remove baking soda from oven, and increase heat to 425 degrees.
Divide dough into 4 pieces, and roll each piece into a long rope. Cut the ropes into 1-inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
Carefully combine the baked baking soda in a large glass bowl with 2 cups warm water. Fill another bowl with plain water. Working in batches, bathe the pretzel bites in the baking soda-water mixture for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring to coat all sides. Then dunk the pretzel bites in the plain water to rinse. (I don't know if it's necessary, but I changed the plain water after each rinse, so I would have clean water for each batch.)
Arrange the pretzels on baking sheets lined with parchment or Silpat mats, and sprinkle with pretzel salt.
Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, or until dark golden brown, rotating sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through.
Serve hot with cheddar-mustard dipping sauce.
Cheddar-Mustard Dipping Sauce (adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
2/3 cup milk
6 ounces cheddar, shredded
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Melt butter in small saucepan set over medium heat. Stir in flour, and cook for 1 minute.
Slowly stir in milk by the tablespoonful, making sure it is fully absorbed by the flour mixture before stirring in more.
Once all the milk has been added, stir in the cheese.
When cheese is melted and sauce is smooth, stir in the mustard. Serve hot.
I loved the sharp flavor of the the cheddar-mustard dipping sauce. I started with an easy béchamel and simply stirred in some cheese and mustard. You can easily use this recipe to make a plain cheese sauce or different flavored cheese sauces. I'm thinking about cutting back on the flour a little next time, which would enable me to add a little less milk too, but otherwise I thought the sauce came out great. And if you have leftover sauce, try gently reheating it and pouring it over vegetables like brussels sprouts and broccoli.
What are your favorite Sunday snacks?