Movie theaters and popcorn. They go together like peanut butter and jelly, bread and butter, Beyonce and Jay Z. They're such a perfect match that it's hard to separate the two. Somehow we've been convinced that the movie experience will be less fulfilling without a bucket of popcorn sitting on our lap. The intoxicating buttery, salty, smell of popcorn overwhelms us from the moment we walk through the doors of the theater making it nearly impossible to ignore the mouth watering aroma and even harder to walk away from the ticket counter without an oversized bag of the fluffy popcorn. Oddly enough, the consumption of popcorn in a movie theater doesn't even require that one is even hungry. Movie goers mindlessly munch on popped kernels of corn while they're preoccupied with whatever is happening on the giant screen in front of them.
Popcorn is to movies like soft pretzels are to the mall. Let me explain. Much like a Pavlovian dog, when I walk into a movie theater, I instantly crave popcorn. When I walk into a mall, I crave soft pretzel bites. It's my own fault really. From the time that my daughter was very young, we always made a stop by the soft pretzel stand when we shopped at a mall. At first, I used the pretzels as a bribe to ward off any toddler meltdowns while trying to shop. When that sweet girl got a little older, we started to bond over our soft pretzel dates. We would talk and laugh and people watch while we nibbled on buttery, cinnamon sugar coated nuggets of soft, buttery pretzels. Now that my sweet girl has moved off to college, it's always hard to pass the pretzel stand in the mall without her. So I'm feeling nostalgic today while I tackled the task of baking homemade soft pretzels since my girl has moved back to college.
Soft Pretzel Bites
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese grated
salt + pepper to taste
Slowly add 3 c. flour, 1 cup at a time. Knead with dough hook. Add remaining flour 1/4 c. at a time until dough is no longer sticky. Knead 3 minutes.
Bring 9 c. water to a boil with baking soda. Drop 8-10 bites into water and let boil for 20 seconds. Remove from water with slotted spoon and place on silicone mats.
Brush each bite with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt. Bake 10-15 minutes at 425.
Continue cooking until mixture thickens. (5 minutes) Whisk in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve pretzels with warm cheese sauce for dipping.
For a sweet alternative, skip the sea salt and sprinkle your pretzel bites with cinnamon sugar before you bake them. (Just like at the mall.)
Just in case you end up with way to much cheese sauce like I did, here's a tip. Cook some elbow noodles and add them to the reheated cheese sauce voila - homemade macaroni and cheese.
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