Dec
14

Perfect Appetizer for Beer Drinkers

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I love that the holidays allows me to share with my friends the recipes I have learned throughout the year. As I got prepared for a recent holiday gathering I was hosting at my house, one of the things I struggled with was finding a good appetizer that is simple, yummy and pairs well with beer.

Let’s face it – appetizer pairings for wine are a dime a dozen. How often we neglect our beer-loving friends – and with two brewers attending, the pressure was on to find the perfect pairing.

Enter the soft pretzel – in bite form!

It’s a classic pairing with lots of options for getting creative with sauces and finishes, and it is a lot easier to make than you think!

There are a million different recipes out there, but here is the one I keep going back to as the best (*cough* easiest) with a couple of tips that I have picked up along the way. Pair with a lager, a robust Märzen or a dark lager to combat the bite if serving with a spicy mustard.

Soft Pretzel Bites

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

Directions

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, 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, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. *See SacFoodie Notes Below!

Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

SacFoodie Notes:

  • Zap the water for the yeast in the microwave for 30 seconds to make sure that your yeast will be activated. Hot tap water is not warm enough. (Found that one out the hard way!)
  • Don’t skip the baking soda bath – it gives the pretzels that beautiful brown chewy skin.
  • Instead of forming into a rope – split the dough into 16 balls, and then take a knife and cut into quarters to make the perfect bite size.
  • As you take your pretzels out of the bath – drop them onto a paper towel to get rid of that extra water before you bake them. It makes them crispier.
  • Rough ground salt of any kind works in lieu of pretzel salt and is yummy with Hawaiian pink salt, truffle salt for a kick, or a rough ground sea salt.

Alternative to kick it to the next level:

  • Instead of coating with salt – tumble pretzel bites in 1/4 cup of butter right as they come out of the oven and coat with a cinnamon sugar mix (1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon) or with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
  • Serve with a melted cheddar cheese sauce instead of mustard.

Recipe courtesy of Alton Brown from Food Network’s foodTV.com.

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