This is a collaborative post with photographer Love Les.
This is one of my all-time favorite snacks to make. Soft pretzels remind me of wandering the mall with my girlfriends in middle school (shout out to Auntie Anne's) but the rosemary and cheese sauce reminds me that I am FANCY NOW.
When I started this food blog, I wanted the recipes to be accessible for people who are new to cooking or who want to expand their culinary skills. This recipe is definitely for the latter group. It isn't exactly "quick and easy" but I do believe that anyone could make them. I promise it's easier than it sounds. I was in a bit of a hurry by the end, so my pretzels weren't as pretty as they could have been. I got tired of twisting them into pretty pretzels, so I made dipping sticks instead. This ended up being a perfect compromise because then they were perfect for dipping in the sauce.
If you're new to using yeast, don't be afraid. Yeast is not as tricky or scary as you might imagine. Most yeast is "instant rise" so you don't technically have to proof it, but it does make the process go a bit faster. Just follow the directions and use your judgment. I trust you, master chef. The kneading is my favorite part of baking with yeast. It is so soothing and peaceful for me. I love adding flour when it gets sticky and watching it turn from a random smattering of ingredients into something delicious.
As usual, Leslie and I tested out a gluten-free alternative. Leslie was going to bring flour, but all she could find was Baking and Pancake Mix. It turned out perfectly, so we definitely give it our stamp of approval. If you want to try and get as close to wheat flour as possible, you could also use the Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour. Moral of the story? We love Pamela's. Just a reminder, if you're cooking with book gluten and gluten-free ingredients, make sure you use separate utensils or do the gluten-free first. For this recipe, I recommend using different bowls, but otherwise the same instruments, just make sure you do the gluten-free pretzels first.
Now, go. Get fancy and make the most delicious rosemary sea salt pretzels that you can possibly imagine!
Rosemary Sea Salt Pretzels
with Rosemary Cheese Sauce
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 2.5 hours
Makes: 8 medium pretzels
Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Rosemary Cheese Sauce Ingredients:
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 ounces butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
Olive oil, to grease bowl
1 large pot of water
1/3 cups baking soda
1 whole egg, beaten with 1T cold water
Coarse sea salt
1. Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes. If you don't have a stand mixer, it's just as easy to do by hand with a wooden spoon.
2. Add the salt, flour, and rosemary to the mixture and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If you're mixing by hand, after the dough is sticking together from stirring, start kneading in the bowl with your hands. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough has started to form a ball, remove it from the bowl and place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
3. Coat a large bowl with olive oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. This will take about 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat, lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take the right side and cross over to the left. Cross right to left again and flip up.
6. Slowly add the baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula and place pretzels on a baking sheet,
7. Mix egg with cold water to make egg wash. If you have a pastry brush, use it to brush the tops with the egg wash (or use your fingers if all else fails) and season liberally with sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.
8. Remove pretzels from oven and let cool on a wire baking rack.
To make the Rosemary Cheese Sauce:
1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour.
2. Pour in the milk and whisk until the mixture thickens. Stir in shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth.
3. Stir in fresh chopped rosemary and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with pretzels.