As a major food person and a seriously minor football fan, I get a bit more excited about the, er, touchdowns on the buffet table than I do about the ones on the field. So I can’t offer any insight on which team will come away victorious, but I do know this: Salty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside pretzels are always a game-day winner.
This year, I’m making my own, with mix-ins inspired by both Super Bowl opponents: The Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here’s how you do it.
Homemade Pretzels 101
If you’ve never made homemade pretzels, it takes a little time, but it’s worth it — those frozen pretzels have nothing on these fresh-baked gems. I used Bobby Flay’s basic recipe, with a few twists along the way.
Basic Soft Pretzel Dough
Adapted from Bobby Flay
Makes 8 large soft pretzels, 16 mini pretzels or 32 soft pretzels sticks
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons light brown muscovado sugar
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons bulk yeast)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
3 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 whole eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt (I used coarse kosher salt)
Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper and spray liberally with vegetable spray. Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.
Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.
Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Now, you’re ready for mix-ins.
If you want to mix anything into the pretzel dough, now’s the time. Try the Packers or Steelers-inspired options below, or dream up your own mix of meat, cheese, herbs and veggies. To mix something in, roll out half of the dough, then pile half of the ingredients in the center and fold over the top portion of dough.
Pile more toppings over the center and fold over the final piece over the filling. Then, roll the dough into an 11 by 14 rectangle to incorporate the toppings. (See the whole step-by-step process here.)
Cut dough into strips: 4 for large pretzels and 8 for small pretzel twists. For pretzel sticks, cut them in half crossways to make 16 strips.
Shape the pretzels on a baking sheet. Grab the ends of the rope and cross the left end over the right end. Cross the left end over the right end again to make a twist in the middle.
Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds, splashing the tops with the warmed water using a spoon. Remove with a large flat slotted spatula or a spider.
Place pretzels on the greased baking sheet (crucial! I forgot on my first batch, and they stuck to the paper.) Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake until golden brown.
Steelers Variation: Pastrami-Cheese Pretzels With Spicy Ketchup
Both the country’s first pretzel house and today’s biggest pretzel producer hail from Pennsylvania, so Steelers fans are no stranger to these soft, chewy snacks. But there’s something that’s even bigger than the pretzel (but probably not the Steelers) in Pittsburgh: The French fry and coleslaw-topped Primanti brothers sandwich.
This Pittsburgh original starts with soft Italian bread, then on goes your favorite meat, Provolone cheese, slaw, fresh French fries, lettuce, tomato and more meat. I channeled the main elements of this favorite sandwich — meat, cheese and fried potatoes — into a game-day pretzel. Serve it with spicy ketchup as an homage to Pittsburg-based Heinz, or serve with coleslaw.
Makes 16 pretzel sticks
1/2 recipe Basic Pretzel Dough
1/2 cup cooked home fries (homemade or frozen)
1/2 cup cubed pastrami (or your favorite deli meat)
1/2 cup cubed provolone cheese
1/2 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili sauce, or to taste
Roll the dough into a rectangle. Using the mix-in technique above, spread half of the toppings in the center, fold, spread the remaining toppings and fold again. Roll into a 11 x 14 square, cut into 8 even strips, then cut in half lengthwise to make 16 strips. Make 16 pretzel sticks, dip in water bath and bake until brown, about 10 minutes. Mix ketchup, vinegar and hot sauce together and serve for dipping.
Packers Variation: Bratwurst-Onion Pretzels With Beer-Cheddar Dip
Wisconsin is home to three important food groups: beer, cheese and bratwurst. Early German immigrants were drawn there because the cold weather and water access provided the ideal beer-brewing environment, and it’s been a beer hub ever since. The abundance of beer spawned another favorite dish: beer-cheese soup. I combined all these classics for game-day flavor in every bite.
Makes 8 mini pretzel twists
1/2 recipe Basic Pretzel Dough
1/2 cup diced bratwurst
1/2 cup caramelized onions
Roll the dough into a rectangle. Using the mix-in technique above, spread half of the toppings in the center, fold, spread the remaining toppings and fold again. Roll into a 11 x 14 square, cut into 8 even strips. Twist into 8 mini pretzels, dip in water bath, brush on egg wash, salt and bake until golden brown, about 12 to 14 minutes. Serve with Beer-Cheddar Dip, recipe follows.
Adapted from Sensory Overload
Makes about 1/2 cup dip
1/4 cup Wisconsin stout or porter beer
1/4 cup deli mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce, or to taste
4 ounces Wisconsin sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Combine the beer, mustard, butter, and cayenne pepper in a saucepan on medium heat until well mixed. Gradually add the cheese, whisking until the texture is smooth. Serve warm.
What’s on your Super Sunday menu? Get lots more Game-Day recipes from our Big-Game Bash Feature.