These Cheddar and Sage Soft Pretzels make delicious snacks and there's no doubt that cold beer and warm pretzels make for an unbeatable combination!
I have a bad habit of sitting down to read a food magazine, finding something that catches my fancy and I know I have the ingredients for and then immediately getting up to go to the kitchen to make them. That was the case with these delicious Cheddar and Sage Soft Pretzels, spotted in the most recent Food and Drink magazine (LCBO/Ontario).
Of course, "bad habit" is in the eye of the beholder. For me, I get half way through making the recipe and wonder why I'm still not sitting on the lounge chair on the deck reading the magazine. For my husband though, my bad habit is his reward, since he was soon enjoying these warm pretzels with a cold beer on a sunny afternoon and I'm pretty sure he didn't think there was anything remotely bad about that :)
I don't remember the last time I made pretzels, but after tasting these, I'm sure I should be making them more often. They're only a tiny bit more work than making any bread product, owing to the boiling process before baking. It's a critical step though, to achieve the chewiness that pretzels need.
As I came to the boiling stage, I was so pleased with my pretty little pretzels. They looked perfect - that is until I put them in the boiling water. That's when they puffed up and lost their holes. Oooops. So I learned that next time, I need to shape them with an exaggerated shape, so that when they puff up in the boiling water, that doesn't happen. Live and learn :)
Cook's Notes for Cheddar and Sage Soft Pretzels
On the plus side, my hole-less pretzels meant that I could treat them as a roll and cut them in half for sandwiches (which I did and it was ever so delicious!)
I definitely recommend fresh sage for these ones, if you can and a nice old cheddar. Do be sure to allow for the resting times in the recipe, as it allows the gluten to relax and makes the process of shaping (and keeping their shape) a lot easier.
Cheddar and Sage Soft Pretzels
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp white sugar
- 2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 tsp rapid rise or instant yeast
- 2 Tbsp fresh sage (finely chopped)
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 1 large egg (lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water)
- 1 cup aged cheddar (grated)
- Maldon or kosher salt (for sprinkling)
- (*Instructions are for rapid rise or instant yeast, which is added with the flour. If you are using active dry yeast, add to the water and allow to proof for 5 minutes instead). In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a kneading hook, combine 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, yeast and chopped sage. In a measuring cup, combine the lukewarm water and olive oil. Add to the flour mixture and mix until combined. Start adding the additional cup of flour, as needed, until dough comes together in a soft, smooth but not sticky dough. Remove to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled.
- Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and divide dough in to 10 equal pieces (about 3 oz each). Form in to balls, cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- When dough has rested, take a ball of dough and using your fingertips, roll the dough, stretching a bit as your roll, until you have a strand of dough about 12 inches long. Place on the prepared baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough balls. Once all the strands are rolled, return to the first strand and roll some more until it is 20-inches long. Continue with the remain dough.
- To shape the pretzels, working with one strand at a time, shape in to a large "U", with the curve closest to you. Cross the 2 ends of the strand twice to make a twist, then fold the twist back down over the bottom of the "U" to form a pretzel shape. Place the shaped pretzels on the same parchment lined baking sheets. Continue until all are formed. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until puffy, 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 °F. and bring 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot (use your largest stock pot!)
- When water is boiling and pretzels are puffy, add baking soda to water. Allow the baking soda to dissolve completely, then lower 2-3 pretzels in to the water and allow to boil 30 seconds, then flip over and boil the other side another 30 seconds. Remove to parchment lined baking sheets until you have 5 or 6 ready.
- Brush pretzels with egg mixture, sprinkle with cheese and then top with some Maldon or Kosher salt.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes, or until deep golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack. Repeat the boiling/topping/baking process with the remaining pretzels. Serve warm or at room temperature with your favourite mustard.
Adapted from Food and Drink (LCBO) Summer 2015