attempting Auntie Annie's pretzels

I have a desperate weakness for Auntie Annie's pretzels.

When I see that bright blue sign, I can barely resist overpaying for some salty, buttery, carby delights. I'm not sure when they debuted the pretzel sticks to the product line but I'd consider those babies my gateway drug to the pretzel nuggets. Those suckers are delightful.

The thing that blows my mind about Auntie Annie's is that they seem to always be out of sticks and nuggets. I simply do not understand how their product management works. If it's 3pm on a week day and rush hour is about to approach, I'm unclear why you don't have any more salted sticks on the shelf or in the oven. Don't even get me started on those pretzel wrapped hot dogs.

With the Superbowl this year, I figured I should make myself a snack. I saw this pretzel recipe on the interwebs that claimed to be as good as Auntie Annie's and figured that would be as good a snack as any. I guess the trick is to roll them out real thin.... so I used my entire kitchen table for the exercise.

Despite the number of pretzels I've consumed over the last 20+ years, I had the hardest time actually shaping the pretzels. Thankfully I was alone in the kitchen during this activity but it was rather embarrassing in a great way.

The cheese sauce is optional for sure - however quite great. Feel free to skip it but it you want to showoff for your guests, it'll be the icing on the cake.

Here's how it goes.

Making the pretzels!
(Step 1) Warm up the milk in the microwave or on the stove for just about one and a half minutes. It should be about 110º. If it's too hot it will kill the yeast. You should be able to comfortably keep your finger in it.

(Step 2) Stir in the yeast and let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the butter and sugar. Add the flour about 1 cup at a time and the add the fine salt.

(Step 3) Knead for about 10 minutes with a stand mixer, or by hand. Kneading dough is terrible but seriously worth it - so don't skip out on this. 8 minutes or so on the stand mixer dough hook was more  worth it than I thought.

(Step 4) Put it in a greased bowl and cover with greased cling wrap. Let rise for 1 hour in a moist, warm place until doubled in size.

(Step 5) Preheat the oven to 450º.

(Step 6) Punch down dough and divide into 12 lumps. Easiest way? Half, then half, then half again. Or something like that. Roll them all out as thin as you can.

(Step 7) Combine the warm water and baking soda in a wide bowl. Form the dough into pretzel shapes, then dip in the baking soda water.

(Step 8) Place on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.

(Step 9) Bake for about 7-11 minutes or until browned. Dip each in the melted butter while hot.

Making the cheese sauce!
(Step 1) In a saucepan, combine the butter, flour, and garlic over medium heat. Whisk until lightly browned.

(Step 2) Whisk in the milk, paprika, and cayenne pepper and continue whisking until thickened.

(Step 3) Add the cheese and whisk until melted. Can be reheated in the microwave.

Shopping List
Based on this recipe
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons (2 packets) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons fine salt
1/3 cup baking soda
3 cups warm water
Coarse salt
8 tablespoons butter, melted in a shallow dish

Cheese Sauce!
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
a pinch cayenne pepper
8 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded

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