Pretzel Bites

(May 22, 2020) There are those who eat to live and there are those who live to eat.

If one were to chart my expanding waistline, it would be very clear which classification I fall into. But, at least I have an excuse, at least that is what I keep telling myself.

As a culinary columnist, it is imperative that I increase my repertoire of recipes. Therefore, it is mandatory that I gorge my body with every type of food imaginable.

Obsession has taken on new meaning. As someone who competes in culinary contests, it is vital that I familiarize myself with every style of cooking. As the expression goes, “Practice makes perfect.”

Saturday nights are not a reflection of high heels, little black dresses and red Channel lipstick. This image is overshadowed by sweats, an old baggie T-shirt and reading glasses, as I become one with my aspiring recipes.

Perfume and foundation are lost as swirls of perspiration and flour become my new look.

It is not a pretty picture, but this formal model has given herself permission to forget about her image and concentrate on her passion.

There are those who do not understand such a deep commitment, and I do not expect them to even begin to comprehend it. But, it is this degree of perseverance that must incorporate my entire being if proficiency is to prevail.

For those who adore cookery and love to bite into warm, soft pretzels, you must read on.

Fascination and facts bestow the following paragraphs for a finale of fun and fascination. Space is limited, so let’s get started.

Pretzels can be traced back to 610 A.D., when a monk in France or Northern Italy is first believed to have folded bread dough into a pretzel shape. I am sure pretzel enthusiasts believe this was divine intervention.

Actually, the folding process it quite simple.

Roll out the dough to form a rope. Take either end of the rope in your finger tips and draw them together so the dough forms a circle (ends facing away from you).

Twist the ends of the rope together once or twice, depending on your preference. Then bring the twisted end toward yourself and fold it onto the bottom curve.

Press the ends into the pretzel, this step keeps the pretzel intact.

In order to achieve pretzel perfection, pretzels must be dipped into a baking soda or lye solution.

This crucial step causes the texture of the interior to “puff” and is responsible for pretzel’s notorious dark brown color and distinct flavor.

Professional bakers use a lye solution. This method produces more intense results but can also be dangerous to work with.

Pretzel salt is a must when making homemade pretzels. Kosher salt can be used but will not have that authentic look that pretzels are famous for.

Boise Salt Company makes a 4-ounce bag of pretzel salt which can be purchased at Amazon for $5.95.

This salt is very professional looking but is quite salty. Pretzel salt should be used sparingly.

Dipping sauces are quite popular and add to the overall flavor of the dish.

Mustard infused with prepared horseradish, cheeses incorporated with swigs of beer, and a dusting of cinnamon-sugar are just a few of the many options.

As someone who lived in Manhattan, spicy brown mustard is still one of my favorite toppings and is another possible alternative.

Entertaining is about memorable occasions. Homemade pretzel bites with a beer, cheese dip is a yummy appetizer that will leave a lasting impression on your guests. Enjoy!

Pretzel Bites

1 ½ cups warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons table salt

1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) active dry yeast

4 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 ounces melted unsalted butter, plus one stick of melted unsalted butter

canola oil for oiling bowl

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

pretzel salt

1. Combine water, sugar and salt in a medium bowl and sprinkle yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and two ounces of melted butter, and using a hand held blender, mix until the ingredients are completely combined and has formed a dough.

Remove dough and knead on a clean surface until it is smooth, approximately 5 minutes.

2. Clean the bowl, and then oil the inside with canola oil.

Return the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in a warm area for approximately 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Divide dough into 6 equal portions. Shape the dough into a cigar, and then use the palms of your hands to roll it back and forth against the counter.

Work from the middle of the dough and gently press outward as you roll it to lengthen the rope until it has a thickness of about 1 to 1 ½-inches.

Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. You can also roll some of the 1-inch pieces into balls for a variety of shapes. One-inch pieces are recommended because the dough will expand when it cooks.

4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. In the meantime, combine water and baking soda in a medium pot. Allow mixture to come to a boil.

Dip pretzel bites into the baking soda solution for 30 seconds, then place them on the parchment paper. Add pretzel salt and bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

6. Place pretzel bites on a cooling rack and brush with remaining melted butter.

Serve immediately.

Beer Cheese Dip

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ small sweet onion, minced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup of all-purpose flour

½ cup heavy cream

1 bottle (12-ounce) pale beer

4 ounces mascarpone cheese (room temperature)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 ½ teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon favorite hot sauce

1 pound of sharp cheddar cheese, grated

¼ pound Pepper Jack cheese, grated

kosher salt to taste

1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are translucent. Sprinkle flour and stir to form a roux.

2. Add cream, then beer, and simmer, constantly stirring until the sauce has thickened, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in mascarpone, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce until smooth and creamy.

3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add cheddar and Pepper Jack cheeses.

Keep stirring until cheese sauce is velvety and free of any lumps. Add salt to taste.

Serve warm with pretzels.

* The pretzel dough recipe is an adaptation of Alton Brown’s Homemade Soft Pretzels recipe.

Secret Ingredient: Home Cooked Foods – Happiness is Homemade

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