The holidays are over, and if your refrigerator looks anything like mine, you probably have at least one extra block of cream cheese, too many eggs and a few mismatched bottles of craft beer.
Great news—I found a recipe for you and your leftovers. This month’s Test Kitchen adventure is pumpkin beer pretzels with chipotle queso, courtesy of Instagram sensation Half Baked Harvest.
The recipe categorizes these pretzels as a snack, but I’m proud to say we ate them as dinner two nights in a row.
Buckle up, though, because these soft pretzels are not the easiest thing to make. Mine didn’t turn out perfectly—they were a little too doughy and dense. The recipe describes the dough as being forgiving, however, and I feel like that’s true. And they still were so good that I saved the basic soft pretzel recipe, and it will be a staple in our house.
The first step is to make the dough and then let it rise for about an hour. Full disclosure: At the time I tried this, I did not have a KitchenAid stand mixer, or, subsequently a dough hook, so I did this by hand. I attribute a lot of my issues to user error. (I received my long sought-after stand mixer as a Christmas gift, so I imagine my next attempt will be better.) I mixed the ingredients and then kneaded them by hand into a ball.
The second step is to roll the dough into long strands, shape them into pretzels, and then boil them in water mixed with a lot of baking soda. I ran into trouble here. When I put my first pretzel in the boiling water, it sank to the bottom, so there was no way for me to splash the top with the water. For the rest of the pretzels, I used my slotted spoon to hold them just under the top of the water for the 30 seconds. That seemed to work, and they definitely puffed up after being in the water. Next time, I would boil water in a saucepan, rather than a pot.
Important: Grease your pan before baking the pretzels! We have nonstick pans, and I seldom grease them, but something about the baking soda solution glued the bottoms of these pretzels to my baking sheets, and I had to work really hard to scrape them off. It was a total bummer.
Other than that, the baking and making the chipotle queso were easy. I loved the dipping sauce and the smoky flavor the adobo added to the cheese, and the pretzels were delicious.
1/2 cup warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup pumpkin beer or any beer you love
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup baking soda for boiling the pretzels
1 egg beaten, for brushing before baking
Coarse sea salt or pretzel salt
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces cream cheese at room temp.
1 1/2 cups whole milk
12 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 chipotle peppers adobo, finely minced
1. Combine the water, brown sugar and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add the beer, melted butter, salt and all-purpose flour to the mixture, and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
3. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands. Coat a large bowl with canola oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. This will take about 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up.
6. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 1 to 2 at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula or a spider. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet, brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.
7. Meanwhile, make the queso. Add the butter to a large skillet to melt. Add the cream cheese and milk. Cook over medium heat until the sauce is smooth and the cream cheese has melted. In a bowl, toss together the shredded cheddar with the flour. Little by little, add the cheddar to the warm milk, whisking until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the chipotle peppers. Keep the queso warm over warm heat. Serve along side the warm pretzels for dipping.