Easy Soft Pretzel w/ Warm Pesto Cheese Dipping Sauce


One of my favorite pizza places in Washington D.C. is a place called Pizza Paradiso.  All the locations have an awesome beer selection as well as having ridiculous pizza and food.  When we lived in NOVA (Northern VA) we would take bike rides into DC and we would often find ourselves stopping at the Georgetown location for a break before the long ride back home.  We often didn't want to eat a pizza because it would sit heavy in our stomach and we had about 15 miles on our return trip, so we would order fresh baked pretzels.  That was always an awesome choice because it was always delicious. Not only were the pretzel hot, soft, and salty, they came with a delicious pesto and cheese dipping sauce that was A-maz-ing!  I was feeling nostalgic so I knew I needed to recreate this snack ASAP. 

Being the non-baker I am, I realized that the recreation would require some shortcuts.  I shy away from baking with yeast so I took the easy way out and bought my own dough.  I figured that Pizza Paradiso being a pizza place used their own dough to make the pretzels, so my plan was golden.  Recreating the dip took a few tries, but I didn’t mind experimenting.  If you want to make you own pretzels from scratch, here is a recipe that I used to help guide me in the process. 

Soft Pretzel

1 package of store bought pizza dough (I used Trader Joe’s Herbed Dough)
kosher salt
1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, whisked together for egg wash
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda

Basil Cheese Dip

2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¾ cup milk
¼ cup shredded Gruyere cheese
¼ cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 ½ cup fresh basil
1/4 cup Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put in a pizza stone to heat up if you have one.  It will allow for the optimum crispy bottom.  Put the water on the stovetop to boil with the baking soda added.

Place the dough out onto a slightly floured work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan. Use pictures on the Internet to guide you in this process if you are confused, or, watch the workers for a while at Auntie Annie's at the mall.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one at a time, for about 30 seconds, they will rise to the top of the water. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten wash mixture and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 12- 14 minutes.

To make the sauce, combine the basil leaves and olive oil in a blender or food processor until you no longer can see leaves. 

In a medium sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Whisk in the flour until it thickens and bubbles.  Whisk in the mustard and milk until incorporated.  When the mixture slightly thickens further, add in all the cheeses and then the basil pesto.  Take off heat and serve in bowl to use as the dipping sauce for the pretzels.


<3 mk

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