Fall is almost here, and as I mentioned before I’m looking forward to a whole bunch of fall-related things. In no particular order, I am excited for: fluffy sweaters, apple picking, camp fires, crisp mornings/evenings, all things s’mores-related, root vegetables, apple pie, red/gold leaves, crunchy leaf piles, hot apple cider, Halloween, camping/hiking (we do this in other seasons too, but it’s always nicest in the fall), pumpkin pie, fuzzy socks, Thanksgiving (my parents are inviting themselves to Dan’s parents’ house this year to experience “American” Thanksgiving for the first time!), and thick blankets/comforters.
Dan, on the other hand? Per usual, his list of exciting-fall-things consists only of football. In particular, the New England Patriots and Touchdown Tommy, but since he actually joined a fantasy league this year and has a vested interest in non-Patriots players doing well, he cares about other teams now too. Lucky me!
‘Cuz this means, of course, that our Sundays (and some Mondays/Thursdays, I guess?) are now dedicated to football watching, regardless of who’s playing. So those long, crisp hikes in the woods with swirling red/gold leaves and travel mugs of apple cider I was dreaming about earlier? Only possible on Saturdays! And lazy, late-Sunday morning brunches with friends? Only if we’re back in time for football…unless we go somewhere that has TVs with the game on, in which case we should definitely plan to linger over our meal.
You could ask why he doesn’t just DVR the games for later, but apparently that defeats the purpose of football watching. Because he will certainly have been getting ESPN SportsCenter updates on his phone all day, and so will already know all the things that happened in the game without watching it. Yes, modern technology has ruined the whole sports-watching experience.
To be fair, this is pretty much the only time of year that Dan insists on having control of the TV/remote (usually we watch an endless cycle of my favorites – Castle, Parks & Recs, Big Bang Theory, Bones, Top Chef, etc.), so I can’t really begrudge him his football watching. Plus, I happen to like sports bars and game day foods, and I’ve grudgingly learned to appreciate the Patriots (go Gronk!), so it’s easier to think of this is whole football watching business as just our new “thing” for fall.
In the spring/summer, we spend our weekends wine tasting and being outdoorsy; in the fall we watch football, stuff our faces with junky snacks, and drink beer…in the winter, we bunker down at home with the cats and pray that we don’t freeze to death as soon as we step outside.
This past weekend, our friends Brad/Amy invited us over to their house to watch the Patriots-Vikings game with them. Given that I’m always looking for an excuse to make/eat junky snacks, I decided that pretzel bites and beer-cheese dip would be a great addition to Amy’s fabulous lunch spread of do-it-yourself tacos (warm corn tortillas, slow cooked ground beef, savory black beans, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, and salsa…mmm). I’d never made pretzels from scratch before, but how hard could it be?
As it turns out, if you are an idiot like me, pretzels-making can be a wild, messy ride. The dough was easy, and the baking was easy, but the step in the middle where you boil the dough in baking soda-water? Ugh. FYI, dumping a bunch of baking soda into a pot of boiling water is a really bad idea. Doing that caused all the water in my pot to immediately and violently erupt up/outwards, extinguish my stove fire, and leave my tiny kitchen looking like it’d been hit by a tornado. I had to dry and clean literally everything before I could try again. We were late for the game.
Luckily, all the trouble was worth it. The pretzels were soft and airy on the inside, but with that nice firm chew that makes soft pretzels so awesome (esp when you get a bite with a nice sea salty crunch). The cheese chip had a tendency to thicken into almost spread-like consistency when it cooled, but was tangy and savory and cheesy and onion-y and hoppy and spicy and basically just super delicious alone or with the pretzel bites. On the whole, this was the perfect game day food, and I will definitely be making it again soon…hopefully without flooding the kitchen.
- 1-½ cups warm water
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2-½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 4-¾ cups all-purpose flour
- Vegetable oil or cooking spray
- 10 cups water + 1 tbsp (separate)
- ⅔ cup baking soda
- 1 egg, beaten
- Sea salt
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- ½ cup light-medium beer
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp ground pepper
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup green onions chopped, extra for garnish
- Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment. Stir, then let everything sit for 5 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, mix together your flour and salt.
- Dump your dry ingredients into the bowl of your mixer with the wet ingredients and mix on low-speed until combined.
- Increase the speed to medium until the dough is smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes.
- Remove dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured flat surface for an additional minute.
- Grease the inside of a large bowl with vegetable oil or cooking spray, and return the dough to the bowl, turning until the surface is coated with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm, dry place for an hour.
- In a small bowl, whisk together your egg + 1 tbsp water. Set aside (this is your egg wash).
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Combine your baking soda and 10 cups water in a large pot, and bring it to a rolling boil.
- While your water is heating, take your dough out of the bowl and divide it into 8 equal pieces.
- One at a time, on a lightly floured, flat surface, roll each piece into a long thin rope, about 22 inches. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces.
- Working in batches, drop your pretzel bites into your boiling water and boil them for 30-45 seconds. Use a strainer to remove the bites from the water, drain them, and then place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet (make sure they aren’t touching). Repeat until all pretzel bites have been boiled.
- Brush the tops of your pretzel bites with the egg wash and sprinkle everything liberally with sea salt.
- Bake for 12-13 minutes, until pretzel bites are golden brown (Be careful not to over bake, or the bottoms will start to burn).
- Remove from oven and let cool on a baking rack.
- While you are waiting for the pretzel bites to cool, make your spicy beer-cheese dip. Combine beer, cheeses, chile powder, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a sauce pan or pot over medium-high heat. Melt down the cheese mixture and stir until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. Stir in green onions half way through the cheese melting. Once mixture is smooth and velvety, remove it from the heat and pour it into a serving bowl.
- Enjoy pretzel bites and hot cheese dip together, immediately.
(Pretzel bites slightly adapted from Snixy Kitchen; Beer-cheese dip slightly adapted from Wright Kitchen)