About a month ago, I was approached by fellow bloggers Rebecca & Ruth from Squaremealroundtable.com and Annie from WhatAnnieseating.com to participate in my first seasonal recipe collaboration! The theme was APPLES and I was so excited to create a new recipe for the occasion.
As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts though, my husband isn’t a fan of cooked fruit. In fact, I haven’t made an apple pie in the 5 years we’ve been together, *gasp* so I knew I didn’t want to make a cobbler or pie or anything with chunks of cooked apple because I didn’t want to be eating whatever I made alone with no honest critic.
So I began to brainstorm with what I could do with apple butter, which for those unfamiliar, contains no actual butter, but is basically apples and sugar and spices cooked down until it's dark, velvety smooth, and spreadable. Think apple pie jam.
I was brainstorming with my husband one evening, and he reminded me that my favorite way to eat apples is when they are accompanied by slices of sharp cheddar. I wanted to incorporate this favored combination but in an unusual and fun way. I said “Well, what if I made soft pretzels with apple butter in them, and a sharp cheddar dipping sauce situation alongside it?” The emphatic nod and resounding “Yes. Yes you definitely should make that.” from across the table gave me the confidence to proceed.
So I started recipe testing and voila, here we are. Soft, sea-salted pretzels that have a faintly tart sweetness but smell like apple pie. Then that sharp cheddar & rosemary in the dip brings the whole thing together. Pretzels and dip; apples and cheese. Two of my favorite time-honored traditional combinations, joined in an untraditional way. I love sweet dishes that are a little savory or savory dishes that are a little sweet, and everything is better with a salty factor, so in my opinion, these pretzels are the best of both worlds.
For the apple butter, you can absolutely use store-bought. I didn’t have that option here in Thailand, so I was forced to make my own, but I’m so glad I did! I remembered how fun it was! It’s very easy to make and it makes your entire house smell heavenly and Autumny in the process. I used this recipe from cooksandkid.com as a roadmap and it came out beautifully.
There are over 80 of us participating in this collaboration with varying sweet and savory apple posts and we are all joined together on Instagram by the hashtag #AisforAlltheApples. How fun is that?! I’m loving what my fellow bloggers have come up with! You guys, here’s just a sample of some of the creative and mouth-watering things I’m seeing in our talented group…
Cloudy Kitchen’s Salted Caramel and Apple Babka
Square Meal Round Table’s Chai Spiced Tarte Tatin
The Wood and Spoon’s Maple Apple Cake
The Cooking of Joy’s Deep Fried Apple Dumplings with Miso Caramel Dipping Sauce
Salt n Pepper Here’s Honey Apple Muffins
What Annie’s Eating’s Butternut Squash/Apple Soup with Asiago and Sage Croutons
Feed the Swimmer’s Apple Buckwheat Galette with Halva and Maple Tahini
Sprouting Radiance’s White Bean and Apple Soup
Be sure to check out so many other recipes from contributors I've tagged on Insta!
WHAT YOU'LL NEED
FOR THE PRETZELS:
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup apple butter, room temp
1 package (or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar or honey
1/4 cup butter, melted
3.5 cups all purpose flour
8 cups water
1/2 cup baking soda (for boiling)
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs apple butter
1 Tbs water
Large flake salt, for sprinkling
Spray oil, for handling
FOR THE DIP:
1 heaping cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 5 oz)
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (leaves from about 2 sprigs)
2 Tbs all purpose flour
2 Tbs butter
salt and pepper to taste
WHAT YOU'LL DO
FOR THE PRETZELS:
Combine the 3/4 cup warm water, the sugar or honey and kosher salt in a mixing bowl until the sugar and salt dissolve. (If you have a stand mixer, you can do this in the bowl of the mixer). Sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside for 5 minutes to proof, or until until it looks a little foamy.
Once your yeast is ready, whisk the (room temp) apple butter into your wet mixture. Add both the flour and butter. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. (If using an electric hand beater, still use the hook attachments instead of the round beaters). Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is totally smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in more flour one tablespoon at a time if needed. You want the dough to be on the wet side, but not stick to your fingers.
Remove the dough from the bowl temporarily so you can clean the bowl, and then spray it with oil generously. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Note for make ahead: You can do everything up to this point the night before, placing the dough in the fridge to rise overnight. Just make sure you bring the dough back up to room temperature before you bake it the next day.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet (or two smaller) with parchment paper and lightly spray with oil. Set aside.
Bring the 8 cups water and the baking soda to a boil in a large, straight-sided skillet. A pot will do, but the more wide and shallow the better. While you water comes to a boil, spray your counter or work surface with more oil and turn the dough out onto it. Use a knife or pastry cutter to divide into 8 equal(ish) pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a long rope, at least 18 inches long. Make a long U-shape with the rope, and then, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the classic pretzel. Place (carefully) on the prepared parchment lined baking pan. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough, and reshape them as needed.
One at a time, place the pretzels in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula so the pretzel stays flat and the water drips off completely. Return them to the sheet pans after each boil.
(The pretzels will look pretty ugly at this point but don’t panic! They will puff up and be beautiful once they bake).
For finishing, combine the egg yolk, 1 Tbs apple butter, and 1 Tbs water and brush the mixture over the top of the pretzels. Sprinkle with your desired amount of pretzel salt.
Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 12 minutes. (The apple butter in the glaze makes them take on the loveliest dark auburn coloring in spots). Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.
FOR THE DIP:
Melt the butter in the pan on medium heat and add the chopped rosemary. Sauté the rosemary until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Then sprinkle in your flour, combining with the butter to make a smooth paste (roux) and cook another 1-2 mins until it bubbles.
Add in the milk in a steady stream, whisking as you pour it in and making sure no clumps of flour remain. Cook for another minute or two until milk mixture is smooth and thickened, then remove from heat. Stir in the grated sharp cheddar until completely incorporated. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately if possible, or keep warm on very low heat, stirring frequently until ready to serve.
Makes 8 pretzels and plenty of cheese sauce for even the greediest of dippers.
Pretzel recipe adapted from Alton Brown’s here.