Back in the days of my youth, I used to work at the mall. I worked at a few different kiosks and in the stores. Being that I would usually go right from school to work, I rarely had time to eat at home. I was stuck eating mall food most days, hence the reason I wasn't the skinniest kid you've ever seen. One day, I was sitting at my kiosk waiting for people to come by while I was snacking on some mall pretzels for dinner. All of the sudden, I heard this faint music playing. Quizzically, I looked around. I couldn't find the source of the music at first, but then I spotted it. Oh, boy. Did I ever. I saw an older, heavier guy with long, brown flowing hair pressed down under his mesh trucker hat sitting on a rascal driving full speed ahead. He had an American flag duct taped to the back of his chair and a boombox from the 80s jimmy-rigged to the back of his chair with bungee cords. As if this wasn't hilarious enough, the song... oh, man. He was blaring "Mmm-bop" by Hansen, flying through the mall at full speed (and when I say full speed, I mean like 2 miles an hour), with his American flag flapping behind. The sweet sound of Hansen filled the mall. God Bless America and Hansen. And mall pretzels.
These stupid pretzels were the most amazing pretzel I have ever tasted. Aunt Annie and Wetzel, wherever you are... your pretzels are dead to me! I was sure that they wouldn't turn out or taste very good, but sweet mercy, they were delicious. I think my oldest daughter inhaled hers in a matter of seconds saying something like, "Mom, thesefsee preiahkjanscalsatzels arejrrerer aiaufyhasfamaziashring." I couldn't understand it much since her mouth was completely full, but I'm pretty sure she said that the pretzels were amazing. You could make pretzel bites for a great appetizer for "the big game." Heaven forbid me mention the S word in February. I don't need to be sued. If I was, I'd want a batch of these pretzels as my comfort food. Ridiculously delicious.
Soft Mall Pretzels
cheese sauce recipe: sallysbakingaddiction.com
1 c milk
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 t)
3 T light brown sugar
2 1/4 c flour
5 T unsalted butter, divided
1 t salt
1/3 c baking soda
Warm the milk in a large glass bowl in the microwave for 40 seconds. Add the yeast. Stir to dissolve. Let the yeast soften for two minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and 1 c of flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and mix it in. Add the remaining 1 1/4 c flour and salt. Mix until your have a sticky dough. If needed, add more flour. (I added about 2-3 more tablespoons to cut down on the stickiness.)
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth but still slightly tacky.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment and spray with cooking spray.
Punch the dough down and divide into six equal-sized balls. Roll each ball in a rope about 24-30 inches long. It can be tricky to get the dough into ropes that long without breaking. If you can only get them 18-24 long, that's fine. Mine came out to be about 20 inches long.
Combine 3 c of warm water and 1/3 c baking soda. Stir to dissolve.
Shape the ropes into a pretzel shape, dip it in the water, reshape if necessary, and place on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes. When they come out, brush the tops with the remaining melted butter.
Serve with cheese sauce.
Ingredients for cheese sauce:
1 c whole milk
2 T unsalted butter
2 T flour
1 c sharp cheddar cheese
1 T hot sauce (reduce if you don't like heat!)
1/2 t cayenne (reduce if you don't like heat!)
salt and pepper to taste.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking as you add it. Whisk constantly for five minutes. The mixture will thicken. Add the cheese and whisk until melted. Add the hot sauce and cayenne (you can omit this entirely if you don't want any heat). Add salt and pepper to taste.