Soft Pretzel Bites & Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce

A few months ago, a really cool cafe called Longfellows opened up on my street. The cafe shares the space with a hip microbrewery, Lamplighter, so the vibe is part bar, coffeeshop, and living room, and I couldn’t love it more. Since I work from home a lot, it’s the perfect place to escape when I need to get out of my apartment. It doesn’t hurt that they brew a bomb dark roast and the people are always friendly.

After a few weeks of going there, I introduced myself to the lovely cafe owner, and we bonded over our love of food and community. I even brought her a few samples of my baked goods to try out. As we got to talking, I mentioned that I’ve made awesome pretzel bites before, and I’d love to have her try sometime. Well the holidays came and passed, and the next time I saw her, she asked me if I was interested in hosting a pretzel pop-up at the cafe sometime? Of course I said YESS! I couldn’t really believe I’d actually be taking my baking beyond my little kitchen.

So that weekend with the help of my trusty sous chef Zail, we cranked out dozens of pretzel bites in the cafe. Pretzels are among the list of things that many people don’t believe you can actually make at home. But to let you in on a secret, they’re actually really easy to make! The dough comes together in minutes with instant yeast, and a quick dunk in a baking soda bath gives the bites their signature pretzel-y flavor and chewy texture. We brushed the bites in egg wash, sprinkled with coarse sea salt, and baked them. When they were finished, they came out like warm, golden, soft pillows.

To serve with them, I mixed up an addicting cheese sauce that combined smoky gouda, sharp cheddar, and Lamplighter’s Chamomile Wheat Beer. A touch of cayenne and paprika gives the sauce a spicy kick too. A few of our friends stopped by to support us, and there were plenty of pretzel bites, coffee, and beer to go around. The cafe ended up selling out of our small batch within a couple of hours!

Now, it just so happens to be the Super Bowl this weekend. If you’re like me, you’re going to the party for the snacks. Anyone who knows me, knows I take my snack game very seriously. That’s where these pretzel bites come in. No matter who you’re cheering for, you’re bound to make new friends when you come in with these. And whatever the outcome, you can never really lose when there’s beer in one hand and beer cheese sauce in the other!

-J

Soft Pretzel Bites
Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction
Makes about 5 dozen bites

  • 1 and 1/2 cups warm water, plus 9 more cups for boiling
  • 1 packet instant yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 3.75 – 4.25 cups All-Purpose flour + more for dusting
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • coarse sea salt for sprinkling

For full pretzel instructions, visit http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/07/20/soft-pretzel-bites/

Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce
Makes about 2 1/2 – 3 cups

3 Tbsp butter
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup wheat beer
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) Smoked Gouda, grated
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) Sharp Cheddar, grated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

  1. Heat the milk and beer in a small saucepan over medium heat until you see bubbles forming on the top.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another large saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour in and whisk constantly for 1-2 minutes. A thick paste will form.
  3. Slowly add the warm milk mixture to the flour and butter paste in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 3-5 minutes. It should be thick but still pourable.
    (Note: The sauce is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Don’t overcook as it will thicken upon cooling.)
  4. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheese in handfuls, whisking after each addition. Add seasonings and additional salt and pepper if needed.

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