Sometimes, I look through my school year planner and wonder how I managed to fit everything in that I did. And then I am so thankful for summer break. This year, my summer break is even a week longer (yay!) because my school is finally breaking down to install some air conditioning. Thank goodness! Looks like there will be no more heat days. Yes, that’s right. We have been dismissed from school early several times before because it was so hot in the school that people were starting to pass out. But no more! My class jokes all the time about how, as soon as we arrive, our high school went through a string of pretty big changes. Alumna who ask me how school is going are usually floored when I list the changes that have taken place in the past two years. Even our schedule next year is being changed (I think I’ll like it a lot!).
This recipe was quite a hit, most notably with my little brother. He ate and ate and ate, and when he went to bed, he asked if he could have more pretzels and cheese dip for lunch. The pretzels were super soft and had an excellent but not overpowering flavor, which I was worried about when I made this recipe (2/3 cup baking soda! That’s a lot!). But no, it tasted fabulous, and the cheese dip was a nice complement and didn’t overpower the taste of the pretzel either. With five people in the house, we polished these pretzels off in no time.
Pretzels and Cheese Sauce Recipe (by Smells Like Home):
For the pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
4 1/2 cups flour
4 tbsp. melted butter
2/3 cup baking soda (yes, you read that right)
10 cups water
Large granule salt
For the cheese sauce
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
salt, to taste (optional)
1. To make the pretzels: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the water, sugar, yeast, and salt on low speed for 10 seconds. Switch to the dough hook and add the flour and 2 tbsp. butter (set the other 2 tbsp. aside). Mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a well-oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set it in a warm place for 50-55 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.
2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
3. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an wide 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.
4. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Slice each rope into 1 1/2-inch pieces.
5. Using a slotted spoon lower a handful of the pretzel pieces into the boiling water and boil them for 30 seconds, flipping them around in the water with the spoon a couple of times. Remove the pretzel pieces from the water using the spoon, and place them on the baking sheets. Brush the top of each pretzel with the other 2 tbsp. melted butter and sprinkle with the large granule salt. Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
6. To make the cheese sauce: In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds, whisking constantly.
7. 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 (this happens quickly, so KEEP STIRRING). Stir in the shredded cheese until all of the cheese has melted. Remove from the stove and add a pinch of salt, if needed.
8. Serve warm. Enjoy this crowd pleaser! :)