Guten Tag! As Summer moves out, and Fall moves in, cultures around the globe celebrate, and welcome the changing of the seasons with the German holiday of Oktoberfest (a lesser known festival, called Maifest, takes place in Spring). Like all good parties, Oktoberfest is celebrated with food.
Pretzels are a common food served at Oktoberfest and are traditionally served with mustard and butter. The American concept of pairing a pretzel with a cheese dip isn’t technically traditional, but it is technically delicious. Whether you’re German or not, brush off your lederhosen and tie that Dirndl knot on the left….Guten Appetit!
FOR THE PRETZELS:
- 1 Cup Warmed Beer (around 110 degrees)
- 1/2 Cup Warm Water (around 110 degrees)
- 2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 Teaspoons Instant/Rapid Rise Yeast
- 2 Tablespoons Packed Brown Sugar
- 3 3/4 Cups Flour
- 3 1/2 Teaspoons Table Salt
- 4 Tablespoons Baking Powder
- 2 Tablespoons Large Kerneled Salt to Garnish (optional)
- Pretzel Salt, Whole Sea Salt, or Kosher Salt can all be used; we used a Sea Salt grinder and took the cap off to access the whole, unground salt kernels.
FOR THE BEER CHEESE DIP:
- 2 Tablespoons Flour
- 3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
- 2 Cups Room Temperature Beer
- 1 Cup Cream (Half & Half or Milk can be substituted)
- 2 Teaspoons Fresh Ground Black Pepper
- 2 1/2 Cups Shredded Cheese
- We used a combination of Gruyère, Parmesan, and American Cheese but use what you like the most. Cheddar, Asiago, Mozzarella, Gouda, etc….if you like it, toss it in there.
- We don’t advise pre-shredded cheese in this application. We’re fans of pre-shredded cheese in the Get Cheffy kitchen, but pre-shredded cheese is often tossed in a cellulose dust (to prevent it from clumping together in the bag). This cellulose prevents it from clumping together, but it also prevents it from melting properly when heated.
- Begin by combining your beer, water, vegetable oil, yeast and brown sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a bread hook. Stir to combine, and allow to sit at room temperature for 5-7 minutes. While your wet mixture is sitting, combine your flour and table salt in a separate bowl and whisk together. After 5-7 minutes, check your wet mixture, your yeast should be foaming and bubbling and a distinct “bread” smell should be coming from the bowl. Pour all of your dry/flour/salt mixture on top of your wet mixture, and turn your mixer on low speed for 5 minutes. If you don’t have a standing mixer, you can easily combine all ingredients with a wooden spoon in a bowl and continue to knead your dough by hand. After 5 minutes, your dough should have formed a cohesive ball and “cleared the sides” of the mixing bowl (the term “cleared the sides” simply means that there’s no straggling pieces stuck on the side of the bowl anymore). Dump your dough onto a floured workbench or counter top, and knead with your hands for 2-3 minutes to form a cohesive ball (don’t be shy with the flour, and continually add more to your hands, dough ball, and work surface it it begins to stick). Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow your dough to proof, and rest, at room temperature for 1-1.5 hour(s) (it should double in size).
- After your dough has doubled in size, dump the dough onto an oiled countertop, and divide evenly into fourths; take each fourth of dough, and divide each fourth into three equal pieces (giving you 12 total). To begin shaping your Pretzels take one piece of dough and place the rest to the side covered in the plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out. Lightly oil your work surface and hands, and begin to roll your dough back and forth to form a rope (think back to Kindergarten when you made snakes out of Play-Doh). You want your dough to be about 20-22 inches long. Form the dough into a large U shape, and criss-cross the two ends over each other twice (forming a basic, two-strand braid shape) before rotating your twisted ends down towards the base of your U shape to complete the pretzel shape. Place onto a lightly floured sheet tray and cover with plastic wrap, or aluminum foil, while you shape your remaining pretzels.
- Once you’ve shaped all 12 Pretzels, ensure they’re covered with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and allow them to sit at room temperature for another 20 minutes. Turn your oven to 425 degrees and prepare the pretzels baking soda bath.
- Pretzels and Bagels go through a unique treatment before they’re baked. To achieve their browned, shellacked exterior, Pretzels and Bagels are briefly submerged in a water bath solution before being baked. Traditionally, this solution was made with water and food grade lye but, for home cooks, Baking Soda achieves the same results. You cannot skip this step or you’ll be serving disappointing dinner rolls to your friends and they’ll all talk about it when you’re not around.
- Pour 4 cups of water into a large skillet or dutch oven. Bring to a boil while your pretzels continue to proof. Once your water is at a boil, add your 4 Tablespoons of baking soda, and reduce your heat to a simmer (water should not be violently boiling at this point). Using your hands, or spatulas, place 4 pretzels at a time into their water bath for 15 seconds; flip the pretzels to their other side and continue to simmer in the water for another 15 seconds (30 seconds total). Your pretzels don’t need to be fully submerged in the water solution. Gently remove your pretzels from their water bath after 30 seconds, and place on a wire rack to dry for 5 minutes while you finish your other pretzels. Once all pretzels have had their water bath, and your oven is preheated, grease one large, or two medium, sheet trays with vegetable oil, and sprinkle the base of the tray with large kerneled kosher, pretzel, or sea salt (if using); place the pretzels onto the greased tray(s) and sprinkle the tops with additional, large kerneled salt (if using). Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping and rotating the pan(s) halfway through baking.
- To make your cheese dip, melt your butter in a large skillet. Once melted, add your black pepper to bloom in the melted butter for 1 minute. Add your flour and whisk together to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk in your beer, stirring constantly, to ensure no lumps are formed. Bring to a boil for 1 minute before reducing your heat down to low. Add your cream and stir to combine. Once combined, add your cheese and whisk until melted and combined.
GET CHEFFY TIP!– Make a sweet, or savory, pretzel variation. Follow the recipe above and, when done baking, brush your pretzels with melted butter. Combine 1 cup white sugar and 2 tablespoons cinnamon in a ziplock/paper grocery bag, and toss your pretzels to coat them. For a savory version, combine 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 tablespoon grated parmesan and sprinkle over your pretzels before the bake.