Savor Soft Pretzel Bites with Cider Pub Cheese

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, which means appetizers galore. In other words, prepare to fill up on your favorite sweet and savory finger foods. This cheesy and salty hors d’oeuvre marries two pub grub classics — soft pretzels and pub cheese for spreading and dipping — and allows you to put the spare bottle of cider in your fridge to good use.

We used Northern Natural Organics Traditional Apple Cider, whose Michigan-pressed heirloom apple blend makes it a light and crisp substitute for the usual lager used in beer-based pub cheese. Jonathan, Northern Spy, Rome, Ida Red, McIntosh, Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples merge to create a semi-dry cider that complements this creamy spread rather than overpowering. Happy dipping!

Soft Pretzel Bites with Cider Pub Cheese
Recipe adapted from Food Network and Family Fresh Meals
Makes 30-40 pretzel bites with dip

For the pretzel bites:
1 ½ cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for bowl
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt

For the pub cheese:
8 ounces of sharp cheddar cheese, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature and cubed
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
½ cup Northern Natural Organics Traditional Apple Cider (or more as needed)

Directions for pretzel bites:

Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

Add the flour and butter and use the dough hook attachment to mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.

Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil.

In the meantime, turn the dough onto an oiled work surface and divide into 5 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 12-inch rope. Cut each rope into 6 to 8 bite-sized pieces.

Place the pretzel bites into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Place on sheet pan, then brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.

Bake until dark golden brown in color, 8 to 10 minutes. Cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Directions for pub cheese:

Place all ingredients (except for the cider) in a food processor. Blend until finely chopped.

Slowly pour in cider a little at a time until desired texture is achieved. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour, then serve with pretzel bites.

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