Sunday, September 9, 2012

Soft Pretzels w/ Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce {#SundaySupper}

Today (I'm writing this on Saturday), we had absolutely PERFECT football weather.  Clear blue skies with fluffy white clouds and temps in the upper 60's.  For me, it doesn't get any better.  And while those are the perfect conditions for hanging out in the stadium and watching a college football game, they're also pretty ideal for tailgating beforehand.

I feel most alive when the air is slightly crisp...when jeans or comfy pants and a t-shirt can be supplemented by a sweatshirt if you start feeling chilly.  I love being able to chill outside of the stadium between rows of parked cars, temporary tents, and grills sizzling with brats, burgers, and dogs whose smell is enough to make you stop and chat.
And then there's the beer.  It seems in endless supply.  And while I've seen my fair share of people who have had a few too many...it's usually just a great social lubricant.  Beer AND hot chocolate spiked with Butterscotch Schnapps.  I don't drink that much anymore, but back in college when we'd walk from the dorm to the stadium, a tall thermos filled with that was the best medicine for staying warm.  Sigh.  Those were the days.  And I can't even think of the combination without being transported back 19 years.  Holy shtuff.  19 years ago I was a freshman in college.  Ssshhhh...don't tell.  It really doesn't seem like that long ago.
But these days, I love planning the food that we're going to bring tailgating.  Everybody brings something, so you know you'll have lots of choices.  One of my go-to foods for tailgating is pretzels in some form.  They're one of my favorite munching foods.  Heck, they're one of the whole family's favorite munching foods.  From pretzels wrapped around hotdogs or sausages to pretzels filled with veggies, meats, and gooey cheese (coming soon) to pretzel bites and sticks to good ol' fashioned soft pretzels like these - they ALWAYS please.  Especially when served with an ooey-gooey cheese sauce that is slightly spicy (more so the longer it sits) and tastes of beer.  I have to make at least a double-batch.  Even then, they disappear super fast.

These were gone in no longer than 20 minutes, which is about how long it usually takes them to get eaten.  And not long after that 20 minutes everybody was telling me I should have made a triple batch.  Next time.
What are some of your favorite tailgating foods (or foods that eat during football games)?  What's your favorite - college or pro?  Who do you cheer for?  Feel free to leave any links to your answers in the comments...I'd love to have more recipes marked for future game days!

Soft Pretzels w/ Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 1½ hours-2 hours (largely una
Cook Time: 15-17 minutes
Keywords: simmer bake bread snack beer cheese flour chiles Super Bowl tailgating American

Ingredients (8 pretzels / ~2 cups sauce)
    Pretzels:
    • 1½ c. lukewarm water (110 -115° F)
    • 1 Tbs. sugar
    • 2 tsp. fine sea salt
    • 2 tsp.active dry yeast
    • 4-4½ c. all-purpose flour
    • 2 Tbs. butter, melted
    • ⅔ c. baking soda
    • 1 egg yolk beaten w/ 1 Tbs. water
    • Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
    Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce:
    • 1 bottle (12 oz.) beer
    • 2 c. (8 oz.) shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
    • 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
    • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 jalapeño, minced (& seeded, if you wish)
    • salt
    • black pepper
    Instructions
    Making the Pretzels:
    Combine the water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit until the mixture begins to turn creamy, ~5 minutes. Add 4 cups of the flour, salt, and melted butter and mix on low using the dough hook attachment until well combined. If dough seems extremely sticky, start adding in a little bit of the extra flour at a time until dough is just slightly tacky, but no longer sticky. Increase speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and cleans the sides of the bowl, ~5 minutes.

    Form dough into a loose ball and place in an oiled bowl Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let sit in a warm place until doubled in size, ~1 hour.

    Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly brush with vegetable oil or spray with pan spray. Set aside.

    Once dough has risen turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 8 (basically) equal portions using a bench scraper. Roll each portion into a rope that is 18"-24" long. Lift up ends of rope to form a sort of U-shape and then twist the two sides around each other and bring down to form a pretzel shape. Place on baking tray and repeat with all of the dough portions. Let sit uncovered while you prepare the water and preheat the oven.
    Preheat the oven to 450° F. Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large, wide-ish pot (like a soup pot). Once it begins to boil, gradually add in the baking soda to prevent overflow. Once it comes back to the boil, lower the pretzels one at a time into the water for 30 seconds each, flipping over halfway. When picking up the formed dough, I like to use two fingers to pick it up, one through each pretzel "loop". This allows the dough to sort of stretch in the right direction. Then just lower it carefully into the boiling baking soda bath. Use a wide,flat slotted spoon or spatula to lift from the water. Let as much of the water as you can fall back into the pot and lay the pretzel back onto the prepared tray.

    Once all of the pretzels are back on the tray, beat the egg yolk with the water and brush the top of each pretzel with it. Sprinkle with coarse salt (or parmesan, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon-sugar, what-have-you). Slide into preheated oven and bake until the pretzels turn a deep golden brown, 15-17 minutes.
    Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to sit for as many minutes as you can before tearing into them. That's usually 5 tops in my house.
    Making the Spicy Beer Cheese Sauce:
    This comes together very quickly - make it once you slide the pretzels into the oven and it will be finished before they come out.

    Add beer to a medium saucepan set over medium heat and bring to a boil. While you're waiting, toss the cheddar cheese with the flour. Once beer is simmering, whisk in the reserved cheese and all of the remaining ingredients. Whisk regularly until the cheese has all melted and you have a smooth, creamy sauce. Hold warm until ready to serve.

    Notes:
    We love soft pretzels pretty much ANYTIME. But if you want to take these tailgating (or somewhere similar), you can hold the cheese sauce in a small crockpot or thermos and wrap the warm pretzels in a towel and hold them in a cooler reserved for "hot" items. You may want to make a double batch - they go fast!

    adapted from Chuck Hughes
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    Join us this week around the family table for our #SundaySupper hosted by Supper for a Steal ...we're kicking off FOOTBALL SEASON with some fantastic Tailgating Recipes.  We hope to inspire you with these fabulous recipes from our talented contributors.  We will be sharing them all day long and would love for you to share your favorite tailgating recipes and ideas during our #SundaySupper live chat at 7pm (Eastern).
    pre-game warm-up:
      on the sidelines:
        main events:
          overtime:
            from the cooler:
              Wine Pairings by Wine Everyday
              Please be sure you join us on Twitter throughout the day during #SundaySupper. We’ll be meeting up at 7:00 p.m. EST for our weekly #SundaySupper live chat where we’ll talk about kicking off football season with some of our favorite tailgating recipes!
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