Soft pretzels are my kryptonite. If they are available, I will eat them… at a festival, a sporting event, the mall, an appetizer at a restaurant… literally, anywhere. I have always had a love affair with soft pretzels. I usually don’t eat them with any sort of dipping sauce, save for when I’m at Hofbrauhaus and their huge Bavarian pretzel shows up as an appetizer. Then, I can’t resist the bier cheese that is served along with it. Truthfully, even though it’s an appetizer, I could make that my entire meal. Don’t put it past me to go to a hockey game or a baseball game and indulge in a soft pretzel and a drink and call it dinner. Actually, I do it pretty often.
I never said I was a fancy girl.
I have been making this superb soft pretzel recipe for years now, but a couple of months ago, I started to prefer the pretzel nuggets when I made my obligatory pretzel stop while shopping – a higher chewy outside to soft inside ratio, which I love. I finally decided to tweak my pretzel recipe ever so slightly to make little nuggets.
While I could eat these all day, every day without dipping them in anything, I was craving a cheese sauce the day I made these. I first made this cheese sauce (technically queso) from A Spicy Perspective back on Super Bowl Sunday. It was, without a doubt, the best queso I have ever had that didn’t come from a Mexican restaurant. The sauce was smooth and creamy and perfectly spiced, and I could have eaten the entire pot myself with a side of carbs.
For this dipping sauce, if you prefer to not have a smokey flavor, simply omit the chipotle chiles. If you prefer it to not be spicy, simply omit the chipotle chiles and the jalapeño peppers. It’s perfectly adaptable to individual tastes, so it’s just as easy to create a basic cheese sauce if you’d like.
Whether you choose to dip or not, these little nuggets are the perfect snack for lazy summer days, picnics, lounging by the pool, or watching a game. This entire batch lasted a mere 24 hours in my house, so prepare to hoard these!
Make the Soft Pretzels: Combine the water, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until the mixture begins to foam.
Add the flour and butter. Use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until all of the ingredients are combined. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Remove the dough from the mixer and place in a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough has doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and brush with the vegetable oil; set aside.
Combine the water and baking soda in a large, wide pot (a Dutch oven works perfect for this). Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a rope about 1-inch in diameter. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Place onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.
Place the pretzels into the boiling water, about half a baking sheet at a time (or however many will fit comfortably given the size of your pot – don’t crowd them), for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a spider strainer or a slotted spoon. Place the boiled pretzels back on the baking sheet, brush the top of each with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Make the Cheese Dipping Sauce: (I made the sauce while the pretzel dough was rising, then reheated it gently over extremely low heat when ready to serve.) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic and jalapeños and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened but not browned.
Stir in the chipotle peppers and the evaporated milk, then whisk in the cornstarch until thoroughly incorporated. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and add the cream cheese and mustard. Stir until the cream cheese is completely melted.
Add the shredded cheese a handful at a time, stirring after each until the cheese is completely melted. Serve immediately, or keep warm over the very, very low heat (do not let the bottom of the pan scorch) or on the warm setting in a small slow cooker.