Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pretzel Bites with Spicy Cheese Dip

So the Giants took home the trophy after round two of their match-up with the Patriots during this Sunday's Super Bowl.  Tough luck for Tom Brady (right, like he has such a hard life....), but I was cheering for the Giants this year and was happy when they got it done.  I love the entirety of football season for so many reasons.  I love lounging in sweatpants on Sunday, glued to the TV.  I love fantasy football.  And I LOVE football party snacks! 

For this year's Super Bowl, I was asked to come up two party recipes for CBS Minnesota, one to represent the Giants and one for the Patriots.  I heard from many of my friends that they made and loved the New York pretzel bites with cheese sauce, and I am excited to be able to share it here.  (To find out when my recipes will be posted on the WCCO website, "like" my blog on Facebook!)  These pretzel bites are easy to make and perfect for any occasion.  You can also make them into eight larger pretzels. 

Pretzel Bites with Spicy Cheese Dip
adapted from Alton Brown
makes about 100 small pretzels

for pretzels:
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 packet active dry yeast
1 tbls sugar
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tbls unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbls water
coarse salt or pretzel salt
cooking spray

for cheese dip:
2 tbls butter
2 tbls all-purpose flour
2 cups half & half
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped
1/2 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika

for pretzels:
In a large bowl, combine the lukewarm water, yeast, sugar, and salt.  Wait until the yeast mixture starts to foam, about 5 minutes.  Then add the flour and melted butter and stir to combine as best you can.  The dough will be firm, so use some muscle.  Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead it until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Spray the bowl lightly with cooking spray, then return the dough to the bowl and cover with a kitchen towel.  Place in a warm spot in your kitchen and let the dough rise for about an hour. 

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper, and spray the paper lightly with cooking spray.   

In a large pot, combine the 10 cups of water and baking soda.  Heat on high – you’ll need the water to be at a boil once you’re done working with the dough.  Once the dough has risen, combine the 10 cups of water and baking soda in a large pot.  Heat on high, and then turn back to the dough.  Punch it down and divide it into 8 equal pieces (a pizza cutter works well for this).  Roll out each piece into an 18-inch rope.  Then using the pizza cutter, cut each rope into 1-inch squares of dough.

Once your water mixture has come to a boil add the dough pieces in batches, about 12-14 per batch, and leave them in the boiling water for about 15 seconds.  Fish them out using a slotted spoon and place on the baking sheets lined with parchment.  Continue until all of the dough pieces have been in the baking-soda bath. 

Arrange the dough on the pans so there is space between each piece.  Using a pastry brush, brush each dough bite with the egg wash.  Then sprinkle the dough with salt to your liking.  Bake the pretzel bites for about 14 minutes.  Let cool for about five minutes before serving.

for cheese dip:
In the meantime, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk to combine for about 1-2 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat and slowly whisk in the half and half.  Return the pan to medium-low heat and slowly add the cheese, jalapeño, and spices, whisking in a figure-8 pattern.  Once the cheese has just melted, remove from heat. 

Keep the cheese sauce in a microwave-safe container so it can be reheated as needed.  Serve alongside the pretzel bites. 

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