Hot pretzels with sweet mustard and cheese sauce

Who doesn’t love baby showers?  I was so excited when I was asked to contribute to a virtual baby shower for Jessica of The Jey of Cooking.  There will be no pink in this shower to honor the arrival of her baby girl due this October.  Nope.  Jess is a huge Cub fan and so it only follows that her baby girl will be one too.  Instead, this shower will be filled with baseball park themed foods- hot dogs, pretzels, candy corn, and all the other yummy foods you happily stuff your face with while enjoying a game at Wrigley Field.  Jess is one of the few bloggers that I have been lucky enough to meet in person and call my friend.  Congratulations to Jess, your husby and the soon to be big brother, A!  And, thank you for hosting Joelen (What’s Cookin Chicago?)!

To me, a ballgame just isn’t one without 2 things, a Vienna hot dog and a hot pretzel.  Okay, maybe three…I’ll add my husband too.  Sorry babe, I always think of food first.  Justin is a huge Cub fan.  In fact he used to live about a block from Wrigley and so close to the El, you could open his bedroom window and put your hand on the track.  Now, that is close…and frickin loud. It is pretty sad when you always have to watch TV in closed caption so you can switch to reading it whenever a train goes by.  I know it sounds a bit crazy, but this was before we were married, while he was in law school.  It was fun then and I know it was one of Justin’s favorite places he ever lived.  I’m not so big on baseball, but I have gone to more than my share of games because I love my husband.  I mostly people watch and eat.  And, there sure are some interesting (usually drunk) people to watch and some delicious food. 😀

So, I chose to make hot pretzels for Jess’s baseball themed shower.  But, there are so many recipes…which to choose?  I decided to go with Alton’s, because, well, I love him.  He is a giant food nerd just like me.  But, while plain pretzels are good, they are so much better with a dipping sauce. No, not one sauce, but two.  I made the sweet mustard sauce like they sell at Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and also a warm sharp cheddar cheese sauce.  The pretzels bake up with a perfectly golden crust, flecked with chunks of salt, covering the super soft bread-like interior.  Baseball fan or not, who doesn’t love a good hot pretzel?  And trust me, these are good ones!

Homemade soft pretzels

Yield:  8 big fat pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water      Measure with a thermometer

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups   Best to measure by weight

2 ounces unsalted butter, melted

Vegetable oil, to grease the pan

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water    to make the egg wash

Pretzel salt   I used Kosher

Combine the warm water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Sprinkle the active yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.  Add the flour and melted butter.  With the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed, kneading until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, ~4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean it 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 ~ 50 to 55 minutes or until doubled in size.

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

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

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. It’s easiest to do this with a scale, about 4.5 oz per ball.  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 to make a pretzel shape.  Place onto the prepared pans.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 at a time, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pans, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture. Sprinkle with the pretzel salt (or Kosher or coarse- just not table salt) . Bake until dark golden brown in color, ~ 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Source:   Alton Brown , There is a great video tutorial if you click on the pretzel picture.

Sweet Mustard Sauce

1/4 cup mayo

1/4 cup dijon mustard

3 Tbsp packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Whisk all four ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and refrigerate.  I made half of this recipe since I had 2 sauces.

Cheese Sauce:

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded from a block

Kosher salt

In a small saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat.  Whisk in the flour.  Whisking constantly, cook for 30 seconds.

Slowly whisk in the milk until completely smooth.  Stirring constantly, bring the white sauce to a simmer over med-low heat until thickened, ~ 3-5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheese until completely melted.  Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed.  Serve warm.

Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave on medium, 30 seconds at a time.  You may need to thin the sauce with a bit more milk.

Source:  Smells Like Home

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