Ah! Autumn is upon us! And one of my favorite fall traditions is Oktoberfest. Thought I haven’t yet attended the original Oktoberfest in Munich, many cities throughout the US have created their own little mini Oktoberfest celebrations. Beer, polka music, bratwursts, pretzels… what’s not to love?
And while Colorado has several Oktoberfest festivals throughout the metro area, we are too busy traipsing through the wilderness in the mountains to partake. But, that didn’t stop me from enjoying one of my favorite Oktoberfest foods: Soft Pretzel Bites with Beer Cheese Dip.
This is one of those recipes that, once I figured out how easy it is to make, could be very dangerous. These little bite size pretzel bits are perfect for snacking and I could easily take down 5 servings in one sitting if I don’t pay attention.
I think that one thing that discourages people from making recipes like this is the yeast. But don’t be intimidated! I promise it’s easy. And my process photos can help you determine if you’re doing it correctly.
The only part that might be considered even a little bit tricky is the very first step: activating the yeast. You mix the active dry yeast with the sugar and warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so, until it develops a froth. And when I say “warm water”, I mean somewhere between 100 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a candy thermometer, you can use that to check. But if you don’t, an easy way to guess is to think of the temperature of bath water… it’s usually somewhere within that range. If your water is boiling… it will be too hot and it will kill the yeast.
Then, you add the salt and butter and gradually add in the flour until it forms a ball and is no longer sticky. You can tell it’s ready if you gently press your finger into the dough and it bounces back.
Next, you knead the dough for about 5 minutes before setting it aside to rest and rise for at least 15 minutes. And then you make the dough into bites.
Dipping the bites into a water and baking soda solution is what makes the outside bake faster than the inside, the idealistic pretzel.
For the beer cheese, it’s as simple as making a rue, whisking in the milk and beer, then melting the cheese and seasoning to taste. I always shred the cheese myself. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in something that prevents it from melting as well as freshly shredded cheese… you’ll end up with a better consistency if you do it yourself.
Servings: 8 (12 bites each)
- 1 Packet of Active Dry Yeast
- 1 C Warm Water (around 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1 Tbsp Melted Butter
- 1 Tsp Sugar
- 3 C Flour (may need additional)
- 2 C Water
- 4 Tbsp Baking Soda
- 2 Tbsp Course Salt
- 3 Tbsp Melted Butter
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Either grease two baking sheets or line with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with a hook attachment, mix together the warm water, sugar, and packet of yeast. Once combined, let it sit undisturbed for 5 – 10 minutes, until it has a frothy surface. (see picture above)
- Next, turn the mixer on to stir in the salt and 1 Tbsp of melted butter.
- With the mixer still on, gradually add in the flour; 1/2 a cup at a time works best for me. You want it to get to a consistency that it forms a dough ball and is no longer sticky to the touch.
- Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and knead for about 5 minutes on a very lightly floured surface. The dough should be smooth.
- Once you are done kneading, put the dough ball back into the mixing bowl and set aside to rest for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, boil the water and add the baking soda, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside. We will dunk out raw bites into this solution before baking.
- After the dough has rested for 15 minutes, it will have risen slightly. Remove it from the bowl and divide into 8 sections. I think it is easiest to cut it into eighths using a pizza cutter.
- Roll each eighth into a rope about 12 inches long.
- Then, using the pizza cutter again, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Continue until all the dough has been made into bites.
- Next, place a handful of bites into the water and baking soda solution and let them sit for about 2 minutes. This works best if they are submerged in the solution.
- Remove the bites from the solution and place on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with course salt while they are still wet. Continue the bath solution process for all the bites.
- Bake for about 10 minutes. Upon removing from the oven, brush the bites with melted better.
- Serve right away with beer cheese dip.
Beer Cheese Dip
- 2 Tbsp Butter
- 2 Tbsp Flour
- 1/4 C Milk
- 1/2 C Beer (generally, a more flavorful beer results in a better dip)
- 8 oz Freshly Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 Tsp Paprika
- 1/4 Tsp Cayenne
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- While the bites are baking, make the beer cheese. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Let it cook for a few minutes until it smells “toasty”.
- Then, gradually whisk in the milk and beer. Be sure to whisk constantly to prevent clumping.
- Once the milk and beer have been incorporated into the rue and you have a smooth liquid, stir in the shredded cheese until it melts.
- Finally, stir in the Worcestershire sauce, the cayenne, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve while still warm and melty.