Beer Pretzels with Drunken White Cheddar Sauce

Drunken Pretzels with White Cheddar Beer Sauce 5

These golden pillow-y beer pretzels are salted and hardened on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Served with a white cheddar beer sauce, it’s perfection all around.
Drunken Pretzels with White Cheddar Beer Sauce 6

“Oh no—not another recipe with beer,” said no one, ever.

There are two types of recipes that I get excited about posting most—delicious pasta dishes and recipes that include beer.

Back in May my pal Jared, owner and creator of The Hesitant Chef, asked me to develop a recipe and write up a guest post for him.

If you don’t know Jared, you need to rectify that. Not only does he provide his readers with delicious nosh like salmon gravlax and  homemade cream cheese, but the guy also brews his own beers and ciders. WHAT. I wish I had those bragging rights. 

Aside from sharing a deep appreciation for beer and cider, Jared and I have a few other things in common; we’re both from Southern Ontario, we love beer, we love food, we love beer in food and we love sharing beer and food with our friends. With all that considered, I really wanted to develop a recipe that reflected all of these things.
 
This recipe was available exclusively at The Hesitant Chef for a while, but Jared was nice enough to give me the nod to make it available here as well.

Beer Pretzel Collage
Drunken Pretzels with White Cheddar Beer Sauce 3

If anything pairs well with beer, it’s a salty snack—like pretzels. And it just so happens that beer has yeast in it. What is yeast great for? Dough. So making beer pretzels was a bit of a no-brainer.

Oh, it gets better.

As I was deciding on what type of beer to use (I went with a Bavarian lager), I thought that including a homemade cheese sauce for dipping would be wise. You CANNOT have a salted pillow-y pretzel without a warm cheese sauce. (I can’t, anyway.)

Ah, and guess what makes a cheese sauce even better? Yes. Beer. Are you sensing a theme here? (The theme isn’t alcoholism, I promise.)

Let’s chat about a few things first.

The Dough.

Let me preface this by saying I’m not very experienced with dough and this was my first time making pretzels. I had no idea what sort of consistency I was looking for, but common sense suggested it should feel like homemade pizza dough so I hoped for that. Thankfully the dough turned out wonderfully; it was easy to mix, easy to knead and easy to shape.

This dough needs to rest for an hour. Once that hour is up, cut it into 8 segments and roll each segment into 18-20-inch long dough ropes.

Once you roll out a dough rope, take the two ends and form a circle. Then, cross the two ends over from one another, approx. half an inch. Twist the ends around once and fold the ends to the bottom of the pretzel. Pinch the ends at the bottom of the pretzel to seal and secure.

Pretzel Fold Step-by-step

 

Before putting these bad boys into the oven, you want to give each of them a 30-second soak in boiling water with baking soda. This is an example of science in baking and why it’s important. The boiling process helps the interior of the pretzel “puff” and a crust begins to form. If you skip boiling, you’ll be robbed of the chewiness that you long for in a soft pretzel. The addition of baking soda increases the pH bringing it to the basic/alkaline end of the scale and it gelatinizes the crust. This helps achieve that sexy golden exterior with a crackled surface and hints of pulled crust.

Once done, brush the pretzel tops with your egg wash and hit those bad boys with some coarse Kosher or sea salt.

Pretzel Egg Wash

Now, you’ll notice these big puffy pretzels don’t quite look like your standard symmetrical stadium pretzels. In all honesty, I’m kind of thrilled about this. Though I do love me some stadium pretzels, there is just something really inviting and comforting about these warm, golden puffs and their homespun aesthetic. They are like a pretzel-bagel-brioche hybrid and that can never be a bad thing. When you pull one of these pretzels apart, the pillow-y goodness inside is a total dream.

The only thing that can make it better is, of course, a warm and gooey cheese dip.
Pretzel Dip

The Cheese Sauce.

This is the kind of cheese dip you’ll want to keep dunkin’ into, so if you’re against double dipping, get over it.

I did some homework on different beer + cheese dipping sauces and tried a few new tricks, but I decided to scratch’em and roll with what I know: my trusted method for creamy mac and cheese sauce. It’s never failed me and I wanted to provide you with a trustworthy method.

Something worth noting is the importance of your beer being at room temperature. This is SO important. Adding cold beer to a cheese sauce will break the sauce resulting in a frothy pool full of curds. No bueno.

Another little trick—I’m a firm believer in starting a good cheese sauce off with a roux. I’ve run into some people who claim that the roux is an unnecessary step and I couldn’t disagree more. I’m not saying they’re wrong and I’m right—to each their own—but in my experience, the roux ensures a nice and thick velvety texture that will make your toes curl and your tastebuds sing. Who could pass that up?

The best part of this cheese sauce is that you can actually taste the beer-y goodness. Needless to say, all of this pairs amazingly well with a nice cold beer.

The Beer.

The type of beer you use is an important choice to make. While reading up on other recipes, I came across some instances where people tried using IPAs and were sorely disappointed. IPAs can be great for meat marinades and glazes, but it’s seemingly not as welcomed in the world of breads and cheeses due to it’s bitter notes. Based on these findings, I avoided the IPA and went with a trusty lager. Lager always seems safe. I wouldn’t mind trying a porter or whit sometime, but if you’re looking for that beloved classic beer flavor, a lager or pilsner is totally where it’s at.

And now I’m finally just going to tell you how to make this.

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Zucchini Gazpacho

This zucchini gazpacho is crisp, cool and the perfect way to nourish your body on a hot summer day. This puree of raw veggies includes zucchini, scallions, garlic, fresh mint, chickpeas and is garnished with a medley of toasted walnuts, raw zucchini, radishes and microgreens.
Zucchini Gazpacho

When you think about summer food, you think burgers; you think salads, skewers and char-grilled corn. No matter how you list your ideal summer nosh, it’s highly unlikely that soup makes the cut.

Last week I was put onto a project where I had to create a compilation of different gazpachos and chilled soups. Now I’ll be honest – the first time I’d ever heard about cold soup I crinkled my nose. Soup, as I’d known it throughout my entire life, was to warm your body and heal your soul. Soup was made to curl up with on a chilly day while wearing wool socks and a flannel shirt. I couldn’t fathom the idea of eating it to cool myself down from the beating sun. The fact that I’ve always had a strange aversion to cold food that should be heated didn’t help, either. Unwrapping leftovers prior to reheating them has always made me squeamish.

However, while doing my research, I grew more and more intrigued with this whole “chilled soup” thing. There are some gorgeous recipes out there and those writing about them are pretty darn keen on them.

Low an behold, this past weekend, I decided to give it a whirl.

In the words of Cyril Figgis… Jeezy Petes. The result was a winner; a super nourishing crisp and cool soup that invigorates you and gives your body all of the nutrition it craves on a scorching summer day.

Zucchini Gazpacho Collage

 

Most gazpachos have a tomato base, but I went green. I used up some zucchini, the leftovers of a bell pepper, some scallions and fresh mint. Even after the initial spoonful, squeamish me wasn’t weirded out at all. This just works.

Another element of the classic gazpacho that I decided to forego was the bread. Typically, a few chunks of bread are added during the blending process in order to help thicken the soup. I used chickpeas instead and they worked wonderfully! Why add carbs where they aren’t needed, right? Plus, chickpeas are a great source of protein. Win!

Zucchini Gazpacho 4

To add some texture to an otherwise smooth and velvety puree, I garnished the soup with some diced zucchini, sliced Easter egg radishes, toasted walnuts and microgreens.

I feel I must add that the toasted walnuts are a must – not because the soup is lacking without them, but because they are so friggin’ good.

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Sweet Potato Brunch Skillet

Sweet Potato Brunch Skillet with Poached Egg 3

Perfectly seasoned sweet potatoes baked in tomato sauce with black beans and served with avocado and a silky poached egg.
Sweet Potato Brunch Skillet with Poached Egg 4

I truly think I need more brunch in my life. Brunch to me is symbolic of many things – specifically sleeping in and clinking glasses of Mimosas, Bellini’s and Bloody Mary’s with the #GirlSquad. What a fantastic way to start a (lazy) Sunday, amirite?

Now – I’ve noticed that more people opt for going out to brunch and less people offer to host it themselves. I’m sure this has everything to do with the fact that Sunday is chalked up as being a low key day and no one wants to burden themselves. But it got me thinking: if I did host brunch, what types of things could I offer? I’m very much used to hosting dinner parties – but brunch could be fun!

After today’s run in my laboratory (kitchen), I might have to start planning for this. I absolutely fell in love with this dish and, best of all, it’s presented in a cast iron skillet. (See my post on Caring for Cast Iron and Why it’s the Best.) This particular recipe is meant for one, but it’s easy enough to adapt in order to serve a few of your chums.

Smoky, Sweet and Silky

After being cubed, the sweet potatoes are tossed in a bit of olive oil, smoked paprika, chili powder, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper. The tomato sauce adds some awesome sweetness and the poached egg adds silky to the already saucy. It’s really just glorious all around.

Did I mention healthy?

This skillet is packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6. The addition of the poached egg and cottage cheese (or plain Greek yogurt, if cottage cheese ain’t your thang) gives you a nice punch of protein, too! The highest of fives to a colorful and unique breakfast-meets-lunch that is nutritious, substantial, and takes less than 30 minutes from beginning to finish.

Sweet Potato Brunch Skillet Collage

Sweet Potato Brunch Skillet with Poached Egg

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Cod with Beer and Mushroom Sauce

Cod with Beer and Mushroom Sauce header

This meaty and tender cod is simmered in a savory mushroom beer sauce with garlic and balsamic vinegar.
Cod with Beer and Mushroom Sauce 2

Beer never fails me. (There have been a few Sunday mornings in my life that would disagree with that sentiment, but that’s beside the point.)

If you research recipes often, you already know there’s no shortage of dishes that call for wine. So, a few years ago–likely in a state of boredom–I started swapping wine for beer and very quickly learned that the substitution is bomb. It even works in “fancier” dishes like risotto! Beer has become my go-to whenever I want to bring some excitement to a recipe. Though more often used to spruce up beef, pork, and poultry, it can work really well with fish.  

Cod is a meaty and flaky white fish that is light in flavor, easy to work with and compatible with a variety of ingredients. People tend to lean more toward bright and citrusy flavors when preparing white fish, but when you live a pescetarian lifestyle, you need to think outside the box in order to give yourself some variety. I adapted this recipe from a cod recipe that called for vermouth. I’m sure the vermouth would make for a great dish, but I’m a sucker for beer and mushrooms together, so again, I tampered with a recipe to make room for beer.

Cod with Beer and Mushroom Sauce Collage

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Easy Homemade Puttanesca Sauce

If you love pasta (who doesn’t?) and you dig salty flavors, this Easy Homemade Puttanesca Sauce is just the thing for you!Homemade Puttanesca Sauce

So, here’s a little lesson in Italian for you: alla puttanesca means in the style of a prostitute. I’m not sure what the connection is here, but this sauce is pretty easy

(BA-doom TSS!)

Don’t throw tomatoes at me. You’ll need them for the sauce.

It truly boggles my mind that I hadn’t tried this pasta dish until recently. For one, I love pasta (just like everyone else on this planet), and second, I absolutely LOVE salty flavors. Considering this sauce comprises kalamata olives, capers, and anchovies, it’s pretty friggin’ glorious. If you’re not okay with the use of anchovies, no worries – you can omit them. I’ve stumbled upon several recipes that didn’t use the ‘chovies, but I wasn’t having any of that. I shamelessly like my salty bits with extra salt.

In addition to all of those wonderful salty bits, garlic is a prominent flavor in this dish. And, if you like to spice things up alla puttanesca (EH-ohhh!), crushed red peppers are encouraged!

Cutting the acidity in a tomato sauce

When I started making homemade tomato sauce, acidity was a big problem for me. After trying several methods, my go-to is baking soda, because science. Baking soda neutralizes the acidity. A little goes a long way, so add it bit by bit. I typically sprinkle in about 1/2 teaspoon and that does the trick without mucking up the flavor of my gravy, baby. A tablespoon of butter stirred into the sauce prior to serving doesn’t hurt either. A creamier tomato sauce will never be acidic! So, butter safe than sorry?

Homemade Puttanesca

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