Pretzel Bites & Cheese Sauce

When I was a kid, I was really ambitious in the kitchen. There was nothing I was scared of. I would try to make everything from chocolate crepes to cheese crackers to mint oreos. Usually, I got pretty lucky and things turned out great. Occasionally, though, I wasn’t so lucky. Which is exactly what happened when I tried to make pretzels one day. I failed miserably. They were pale and hard and ridiculously bad. I chocked it up as pretzels just weren’t my forte. So I never tried them ever again.

Until this Dine & Dish image started popping up on pinterest.

I tried to ignore it, thinking back to the pretzel-shaped rocks that I ended up with as a kid. But these just looked SO good! So finally, the other day, I clicked on the recipe and skimmed it. I noticed that one of the steps is to boil the pretzels before you bake them. I’m not sure if I had a weird recipe or if I just totally ignored that step, but I definitely never boiled anything when I made them before! I felt like the clouds lifted and it was a new dawn for me in the pretzel business.

I was so excited to give my favorite mall food another shot in my kitchen. I paired it up with a simple cheese sause and I was ready to rock. They turned out amazing!! Check it out!

Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce

Pretzels
1 1/8 cups water
3 cups  flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda
coarse salt
melted butter

Cheese Sauce
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (not package pre-shredded cheese – shred your own)
Kosher salt

Let’s start with the pretzels. In the bread machine pan, place the first four ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. My machine calls for liquids, then dry ingredients, with yeast last. Select the dough setting.

When the cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Use a a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 8 sections.

Roll each section into a rope about 1/2 inch wide. Using the pizza cutter stil, cut the rope into 1.5 inch pieces. (This method was very similar to the sweet potato gnocchi I made a while ago.) Or you can twist each section into a complete pretzel.

Bring water and baking soda to a boil. Drop pretzel pieces into boiling water, four at a time (or 1 full-size pretzel at a time). Boil for 10-15 seconds. The water will get a little foamy so be sure your pot is big enough. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Move pretzels to greased baking sheets. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt.

Now for the cheese sauce!

In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter.  Whisking constantly, add the flour and cook for 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk in the milk until no lumps of flour remain.  Stirring constantly, bring the milk to a simmer over medium-low heat until it thickens, about 3-5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted.  Add a pinch of salt, if needed.

Enjoy with your pretzels!

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