You know what I’ve been missing this year? Well, LOTS of things (like the rest of the world), but lately- fun date nights and the food that accompanied it. This is my favorite time of year to go catch a movie, cheer on our basketball team from the stands, and visit fall markets (October was just not the same without Oktoberfest). I haven’t had movie popcorn in over a year… that’s kind of insane. Anyone else?! Emmett & I were talking about “event food” that we miss and soft pretzels came up. I decided to take matters into my own hands and put together some pretzel combinations for us, here at home. When living in Ohio, we actually took a culinary class on beer & pretzel pairing. We learned how to make lots of different pretzels (from savory to sweet), and we sampled a lot of beer and cocktails that paired nicely with them. It has been years since our pretzel making days, but I’m happy I resurrected our recipes! Click through for three of our favorite soft pretzel flavor combinations…
I’m going to share our dough recipe (the one from the cooking class we took), but you can also buy frozen store-bought pretzels and test out the topping combinations. Pretzel making is really fun, but I totally get not having time and still wanting to try a few different options. The recipe takes longer than most, but it’s the BEST.
Buttery Soft Pretzel Dough
- 1 1/2 cups warm water between 110-115 degrees F
- 1 tablespoon yeast (1 packet)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter melted
- 10 cups water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon water
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the sugar and yeast to the warm water. Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes, giving the yeast a chance to activate.
- Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. You will use this bowl later to allow the dough to rise.
- Add the melted butter and flour to the mixer, and mix on low until all of the ingredients are combined. Once fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium. Knead for 4-5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Lightly oil the flour bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for at least one hour in a warm place.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, divide it into 8 equal portions. Work with one part at a time and keep the others covered in the oiled bowl. DO NOT FLOUR YOUR WORKING SURFACE! You will need the surface clean and unfloured to help the pretzels hold their shape.
- Roll each portion into a rope, 24" long. Begin in the middle and roll while pushing down and out. Try to maintain a consistent thickness around the rope. Make a "U" shape and twist the ends. Fold over, and if necessary- secure the "legs" with a drop of water.
- Allow the shaped pretzels to rest and slightly rise, for about 20 minutes. This will also help the seams seal and reduce leakage in stuffed pretzels. These can now be covered and refrigerated overnight.
Prepare Dipping Solution
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large stainless steel pot, heat 10 cups of water. Stir in the baking soda carefully and continue to heat to a boil. Once boiling, decrease the heat to medium. The water should be hot, but not boiling during the dipping process.
- Place one or two pretzels at a time into the liquid. Leave them for 30 seconds before lifting them out of the water. Allow them to drip dry and place them on the parchment lined baking sheet.
Egg Wash & Salt
- Mix the egg yolks and water in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the pretzels with egg yolks before adding the pretzel salt.
- Place the prepared pretzels in the top half of the oven and set a timer for 8 minutes. Baking may take 8-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your pretzels. Use convection, if available. Rotate pans top to bottom and front to back, halfway through baking.
- Buttery pretzels should have a brown top and sides. When done, remove from baking sheets and place on a cooling rack. These are best served warm! To enjoy later- place in a warm oven for 2-3 minutes to cirsp the outside and warm the center.
The key to getting brown pretzels with a crisp outer layer and a soft, buttery interior is soaking them in the baking soda solution before baking. Our pretzels never looked like the ones we’d enjoy at events, and until taking the cooking class- I never knew why. That was a major takeaway for me, during our pretzel making culinary experience. Ready for our favorite combinations?
Classic Salted Pretzel & Cheese
Ok, I’m not going to lie- I tried to make “real” cheese sauce from actual cheese and it was just not the same as the crappy nacho cheese that you get at the movie theater. Is it wrong to love processed nacho cheese? Ugh, I know… it’s so bad, but it’s also very good. The struggle! Emmett was not impressed with my homemade cheese sauce, so he decided to order actual nacho cheese from Amazon (the same kind that carry at events, the mall, and theaters). I’m here to tell you- that is the way to go. The faux cheese (lol!) was perfectly delicious and nostalgic. 10/10 would recommend. If you’re making soft pretzels and are craving that type of nacho cheese… save yourself the effort and just buy it. Lesson learned! If you’re trying to be healthy, just disregard this entire paragraph. Ha!
Another winning combination we learned in culinary school was the cheddar jalapeño pretzel! If you like a little spice, give that one a try. You can add jalapeño to the dough, or the cheese.
Rosemary Mozzarella Pretzel & Mustard
In our class, we made mozzarella stuffed pretzel bites, with rosemary and butter sprinkled on top. YUM! You can use the dough however you like (it’s a versatile recipe!), but I was lazy and just topped our pretzels with the flavor combo. Still very good!
Emmett likes to dip these in honey pale ale mustard (pictured above), but I prefer them plain… or dipped into oil & balsamic. We’re condiment people, and we love having dipping sauce options!
Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel & Chocolate Ganache
Last, but not least- the SWEET option. You probably assumed this classic combo was coming… the cinnamon sugar topped pretzel. I like to whip up a chocolate ganache dipping sauce for this one. Just sprinkle some chocolate chips into a microwave safe condiment dish, add a tiny bit of heavy cream, then mix it really well- voila, ganache! I’ve always enjoyed a dessert pretzel.
We love dreaming about our home and future renovations here- I’m sure you can guess what Emmett has been dreaming of lately… the basement media room. Someday when we renovate downstairs for real, he has requested a nacho cheese machine and a home theater. HAHA! It’s not happening (the nacho cheese machine)! Can you even imagine?! Our recent dive back into soft pretzels has created a monster. I will say, it was fun to reminisce and pretend like we were at the movies eating our favorite snacks. However, instead of watching a movie, we binged The Queen’s Gambit (10/10, would also recommend). If you’re looking for a fun night at home as the cold weather rolls in, make yourself some soft pretzels and turn on your favorite show. You’ll be glad you did!
PeggiNovember 9, 2020 at 5:03 am
Mmmmm, pretzels! We honestly aren’t frequent event goers, even before the pandemic, but a giant, soft salty pretzel comes to my rescue any time I find myself starving at the mall. (I kinda wish I was starving at the mall rn.) The chewy exterior and pillowy insides! Heaven. I enjoy mine plain with those enormous chunks of salt. Sigh. I figured boiling water was involved to get that glorious skin (like bagels, right?). These look like an awesome Saturday project. Set the dough to rise; take Joe to the park; come home and finish up our treat! The weather got blustery and freezing this weekend, so I’ll take any excuse to turn on that oven. (Sorry, Emmett, we’ll be skipping the nacho cheese.🤣)
I’m glad you are safely returned and properly rejuvenated! I 💜 Sedona.
SarahNovember 9, 2020 at 8:10 am
I don’t even really like going to the mall, but I do miss having a mall pretzel! Haha :) That sounds like the perfect baking day. I came home to 6-7″ of snow last night!! It’s a winter wonderland here, but it’s COLD. Sedona was the most incredible… that was my first time visiting, and I’m already looking forward to going back. I can certainly see why you love it! I could’ve easily stayed another few days. So magical!! Have a great week Peggi :) xo
Danna FNovember 9, 2020 at 8:47 am
Oh, I forgot how much I love warm soft salty pretzels. The rosemary mozzarella pretzel sounds delish!
What a fun couples cooking class to take! You did a great job on your pretzels Sarah. I am a cook and the baker part in me would not have them looking or tasting as good as yours do. The honey pale ale mustard looks delicious and one I need to get for my husband. Yes, the nacho cheese that’s processed is the best unfortunately! I can smell the popcorn and nachos from the movie theater now. Covid go away!
SarahNovember 9, 2020 at 10:14 am
I know!! I really miss the movies (and movie food)! That was our date night a couple times a month. The class we took was so much fun! What’s not to like about pretzels and beer? Haha :) I hope your week is off to an amazing start, Danna!! xo
KarenNovember 9, 2020 at 1:57 pm
I made pretzels for my kids and their cousins on Halloween, and let’s just say the adults were left wanting (and stealing bites)!! I love to use my bread machine for the dough-making, and then I shape/boil/bake by hand. This cheese sauce is THE BOMB, and kicks butt on the jarred stuff. I made it that morning, and re-heated on the stove before serving; worked very well.
CHEESE DIP (DELISH!) Can make ahead, store in fridge, and re-heat on stove.
3 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese
1.) Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the top, stirring constantly until a thick paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes.
2.) Slowly add the milk to the flour/butter paste in a steady stream, whisking constantly. Continue cooking, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. It should be thick but still pourable. Add the cheese, whisking constantly until it is melted. Taste, then add pepper to taste.
SarahNovember 9, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Ok, Karen!! I’m giving homemade cheese sauce another chance- this sounds like a better recipe than the one I tried. Thank you so much for sharing :) Can’t wait to try it! Hope your week is off to a fabulous start. xo
SarahNovember 9, 2020 at 3:46 pm
Also… using the bread maker is genius. I hadn’t thought of that!
LaurenNovember 10, 2020 at 8:46 am
Mmmm…soft pretzels remind me of the county fair…I can smell it now…the doughs of all the deep fried concoctions, the greasy smell of the hot dogs, and a faint scent of fresh cotton candy floating by…It’s strangely funny how this year has made us all sit back and reminisce on the littlest things we enjoy. Kudos to you and Emmett for taking that wistful/wishful thinking and turning it into a fun date night at home. I wish I had the time and energy to do that myself. Soft pretzels are one of mine and Jeff’s guilty pleasures. When we take the kids to the mall it’s always one of the stops. I prefer warm caramel sauce for dipping, but I’ll definitely take a nacho cheese any day. I printed this recipe because I think it would be super fun to make with the kids. That rosemary pretzel sounds incredible!! Thanks for sharing Sarah! I’m catching up since this week has been crazy…but the boy is doing great, and in the business of healing. He’s a little champ. That’s been my week and I’m ok with that! Hope yours is extraordinary! We got early snow this year, and it’s frigid cold, but I’m loving it. I hope the snow lasts but likely it will be gone by the weekend. Your house always looks incredible in the snow, and it made me want to bust out the Christmas tree when I saw your stories! Lol. Happy Tuesday!!
SarahNovember 10, 2020 at 9:18 am
I’m so so happy to hear he is doing better and is on the mend! Whew! You’re a great mom. Yesss- we definitely missed fair food and all of those “once a year” foods we took for granted. My mom and step dad actually have a cotton candy machine, movie popcorn maker, and all sorts of things like that they used to use for trade shows… they’ve been making fun food and giving it to the neighbor kids. So cute, but I’m a little jealous we don’t live closer! Haha! The pretzel recipe would definitely be fun to make with your kids. We’ve made them with our nieces and nephews before and it was a hit! I’m kind of loving the snow here. We have more in the forecast today, but as of now- it’s just flurries… nothing major. We’ll see how long it lasts :) Hope you’re having a good week! xox
BrendaJanuary 8, 2023 at 7:59 am
Every time I visit my family now, they ask me to make these pretzels. They are easy to make but look so impressive!!
SarahJanuary 8, 2023 at 2:52 pm
I love hearing that, Brenda! So happy you and your family are enjoying them :)