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Are you ready for some homemade soft pretzels with beer cheese? That’s what I thought. Bread pretzels are the best!
These are the pretzels I used to make at the restaurant almost every day. It’s a very versatile recipe. You can even turn them into pretzel buns.
The beer cheese sauce for pretzels is a variation of the “Taleggio Porter Fondue” we used to serve with them.
The pretzels bake up with beautifully burnished outsides and soft, bready insides, and the beer cheese? Well, you’ll want to spread it on everything!
Bread Pretzels, Beer Cheese, and Bar Snacks
Salty snacks are traditionally served with beer partly because the saltiness is a nice contrast to malty, hoppy beer.
But bars also want to make money and sell more beer, so salty snacks encourage more drinking. Responsibly, of course.
If you ever sidled up to a bar and wondered why you couldn’t get some lovely cucumber slices to go with your beer, now you know.
We served sweet/spicy/salty caramel corn at the bar at the restaurant. Other excellent bar snacks include:
- Fried Pickles
- mixed salted nuts
- cheese plates
- Dips such as spinach and artichoke or even onion dip
All foods that are on the salty side and that beg for a tall glass of beer or other frosty beverage to wash them down with.
Lye Bath Vs Baking Soda for Soft Pretzels
I have used both methods for making pretzels. I used a lye bath when I made pretzel buns for my burgers a couple of years ago. And I have always made my soft pretzels using baking soda, even at the restaurant.
There are pros and cons to both methods.
Pros and Cons of Using Lye
- Using lye takes less time than a baking soda bath
- You don’t need to heat up a big pot of water
- You have to wear gloves.
- Lye is very caustic with a very high pH, so you have to be careful in general.
Pros and Cons of Using Baking Soda
- Baking soda is readily available.
- It’s inexpensive.
- The pH is only slightly basic so it will not hurt you to get it on your skin.
- You need to dissolve it in boiling water.
- It’s messy.
Which Is Better, Lye or Baking Soda?
For home use, baking soda gets the edge, for sure. It’s much safer to use, and that is a primary concern, especially if you have children or pets who might get into it.
I did find that using lye gives a slightly better flavor once baked, but the color is roughly the same whether you use baking soda or lye.
If you do decide to go with lye, keep it well out of reach of children and pets, and do not let younger children help you when you’re working with it.
I have lye here–on a very high shelf in a cabinet–but even so, I’m more likely to use a baking soda bath so I don’t have to put on gloves and be super careful.
If you do want to try using lye, read the directions carefully, wear gloves, and kick your kids, pets (and possibly your significant other!) out of the kitchen.
Note the description says “drain cleaner.” I promise it is food safe and is the exact brand I purchased when I made the pretzel buns.
Dipping Pretzels in Lye Video
Here is the Facebook Live video I made showing using lye to dip the pretzels. If you decide to go the lye route, please watch the videos first.
And if you’d like to watch me scaling dough for pretzels or pretzel buns, you can do that too!
Making Pretzels and Beer Cheese at a Restaurant and at Home
Back when I worked at the restaurant, one of my responsibilities was to keep the place in soft pretzels and delicious taleggio porter fondue.
This meant that I sometimes made up to 48 pretzels in a batch and made quarts of ridiculously good cheese sauce at a time.
The pretzels themselves are the same as I used to make them, based on a solid recipe from Alton Brown that has really stood the test of time.
I honestly don’t miss working in the restaurant, but I do miss some of the food we used to turn out. I can assure you, anyone who ever ate these pretzels dipped in rich fondue immediately fell in love. I hope you do, too.
The Best Homemade Soft Pretzels
The combination of a soft pretzel with a dense crumb, a chewy/salty crust, and rich, decadent cheese sauce is hard to beat. And even if you don’t want to make your own pretzels, just get some at the store and make the beer cheese to go with them!
Making Soft Pretzels Video
Here’s a short video I made a long time ago showing how to make and form the bread pretzels. I hope you find it helpful!
I really hope you love these soft pretzels and beer cheese, you guys! If you make it, please share a photo with me, either in the PCO Facebook Group or on instagram by tagging @onlinepastrychef and using hashtag #pcorecipe. Thanks, and enjoy!
Get the Best Beer Cheese Sauce for Soft Pretzels Recipe, Too
Don’t forget to grab the recipe for the beer cheese sauce. It goes great with these pretzels, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want to use it like Frank’s Hot Sauce, “I put that Sh*t on Everything!” Enjoy!
- 11-11.25 oz room temperature water, (start with 11 oz and only add a smidge more water if things seem to dry. This dough should be pretty firm though and not at all sticky)
- 2 oz melted butter
- 1/2 oz malt syrup or dark corn syrup
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 22 oz all purpose flour
- 1/4 oz (.25 oz) active dry yeast
- 10 cups water
- 1/2-2/3 cup baking soda, (I use 1/2 cup. Use 2/3 if you'd like your pretzels to be a bit darker once baked.)
- 1 egg plus 1 teaspoon of water for egg wash
- coarse salt of your choosing for finishing
- Put all the ingredients in the order they appear in the recipe into the bowl of your stand mixer. Attach the dough hook and mix for 1 minute on low speed. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead for 8 minutes. If after 3-4 minutes the dough seems a bit dry, add the extra 1/4 oz of water, but no more than that. The dough should completely clear the sides and bottom of the bowl. When you're finished kneading, the bowl should almost look like it's clean.
- Once the kneading time is over, the dough should be smooth and soft to touch but fairly firm and not at all sticky.
- Form it into a ball and place it back in the mixer bowl. Spray the top and sides with pan spray, cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen, this could take anywhere from an hour to up to three hours.
- When the dough is nicely risen, turn it out onto a clean work surface and press out all the gases.
- Use a bench knife and your kitchen scale to divide the dough into 3 oz portions.
- So the dough doesn't dry out, place each piece under plastic wrap as you divide it.
- Spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with pan spray and cover the sheets with plastic wrap--this is what you'll use to keep the pretzels from drying out when forming them.
- Roll each portion of dough into a long snake approximately 2 feet long. Bring the ends up and cross them over each other twice and press the ends down into the center of the snake to form a pretzel shape. (Video below.)
- Place each finished pretzels on the pans under the plastic, six per pan.
- Freeze the pretzels for a good hour or an hour and a half until they are solidly frozen.
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375F.
- Bring 10 cups of water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add the baking soda and stir to evenly dissolve.
- Bring one sheet of pretzels out of the freezer. Boil 2 pretzels at a time for approximately 45 seconds to 1 minute, until they float and are somewhat puffed. While the pretzels are boiling, Re-spray that part of the sheet pan. Remove pretzels from the water with a slotted spoon or a spider and place back on the tray. Once all the pretzels are boiled, repeat with the second tray of pretzels.
To Finish and Bake
- Brush the pretzels with a thin coating of egg wash and sprinkle liberally with coarse finishing salt. I used sel gris for one tray and a smoked salt for the other. Feel free to use pretzel salt, fleur de sel or your favorite finishing salt--or switch things up and use sesame seeds or poppy seeds if you prefer.
- Bake one tray of pretzels at a time. Bake for 10 minutes. Then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake an additional 8-10 minutes until deeply golden brown.
- Remove to a rack to cool. Serve warm with grainy mustard and beer cheese. Store extras in the freezer and reheat in the toaster oven or oven.
- KitchenAid 6 quart Stand Mixer
- Escali Primo Digital Kitchen Scale
- Norpro Bench Knife
- Set of Two Half-Sheet Pans
- Silicone Basting Brushes
- Set of 2 Cooling Racks
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Nutrition InformationYield 12 Serving Size 1 pretzel
Amount Per ServingCalories 336 Total Fat 10g Saturated Fat 5g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 5g Cholesterol 41mg Sodium 574mg Carbohydrates 53g Fiber 2g Sugar 2g Protein 8g