For the Pretzels
- 3/4 cup whole milk, lukewarm
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
- 41/4 teaspoons active yeast
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 7 ounces light beer, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup baked baking soda, (see notes), plus 6 cups water
- 1 egg, mixed with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
- Pretzel salt, optional
For the Cheese Sauce Dip
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 cups whole milk
- Salt and black pepper, to season
- 10 slices Land O Lakes® Deli American, cut into quarters
- 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/3 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
To Make the Pretzels
Place the lukewarm milk, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the yeast in a medium-sized bowl, and stir to combine. Leave for 10-15 minutes, or until foamy.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, place the flour, salt, and butter, and mix briefly to combine.
Add the milk mixture and the beer to the dry ingredients, and mix on low for 2-3 minutes, until the dough begins to come together. Increase the speed to medium, and knead for a further 15-20 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy (it needs a little more kneading than you expect).
Shape the dough into a ball, and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm spot for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size. This initial rise can also be done in the fridge overnight.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface (do not flour), and weigh the dough then divide into 12 equal sized balls. Shape each into a ball, then place on the bench under plastic wrap to rest. Keep covered until you are ready to use.
Line three baking sheets with silpats / silicone baking mats, or parchment paper. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into a long thin sausage, 30 inches long. This will seem very thin, but is necessary in order for the pretzels to be the right shape once risen. If you would like them a little thicker, roll the dough sausage a little shorter.
Make the dough into a ‘U’ shape, then cross the two ends over twice to form a twist, then bring the ends down and press onto the rounded part of the pretzel (watch this video for a better demonstration). Transfer to a lined baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough balls, until you have 12 pretzels. Space evenly amongst the baking sheets (you can get away with using two sheets but things get a bit squishy). Rise the pretzels, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for a further 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 475℉. In a large, shallow pan (I used a frying pan/skillet), combine 1/4 cup baked baking soda and 6 cups of water. Heat until the solution is steaming, then turn off.
Working with one pretzel at a time, carefully lift off the baking sheet, and place upside down in the solution. Soak for 10 seconds, then carefully flip over and soak for another. Remove using a slotted spatula or another flat utensil, and place onto the silicone mat lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pretzels - if you are baking on 3 trays, do not dip the third tray of pretzels until just before you bake them.
Egg wash the pretzels just before you bake them, and use a razor blade or sharp knife to score the rounded part of the pretzel (see photos). Sprinkle with pretzel salt. Bake two trays at once for 9-10 minutes, switching trays half way through, until the pretzels are golden brown. While the two trays are baking, dip the third tray and then repeat the egg washing and baking process.
Allow to cool slightly on the trays, and then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Serve with cheese dip (recipe follows). Best eaten on the day that they are made - if you are planning on keeping some for more than one day, do not add the salt as it makes them soggy.
To Make the Cheese Sauce Dip
In a medium pot, melt the butter, and then add the flour, whisking well to combine. Cook, for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, or until the mixture is bubbly and foaming slightly. Remove from the heat, and, whisking constantly, add the milk. Whisk well to combine, then return to the heat and cook for a further 4-5 minutes, whisking continuously, until the mixture has thickened. Season well with salt and pepper.
Remove from the heat and add the Land O Lakes® Deli American Cheese, the Sharp Cheddar, and the cream cheese, and mix well to incorporate, continuing to stir until the cheese is melted. Add the smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and wholegrain mustard and stir well.
Transfer to a microwave safe dish, and serve warm alongside the pretzels. As needed, rewarm in the microwave by zapping for 30 seconds at a time, stirring well between each interval, until warm and smooth. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
Baked Baking Soda Notes: To make baked baking soda, line a sheet pan with foil, and spread 1 cup of baking soda evenly over it. Bake at 250℉ for one hour, then transfer to an airtight container. This will be enough for four batches of pretzels - you use 1/4 cup at a time.