This certainly isn’t the first time I’ve made soft pretzels for the blog. (Proceed with caution, there’s a flood of old posts ahead.) There’s been pretzel buns, pretzel dogs, pretzel skillets, pretzel pinwheels, pretzel bread, and chicken cheesesteaks served on– you guessed it– pretzel rolls.
It’s also not the first time I’ve professed my undying love for the snack around here, nor is it the first time I’ve mentioned my nearly-7-year stint at Auntie Annes. I’m kind of a pretzel veteran. A pretzel connoisseur. What I’m saying is that many pretzels have been eaten.
But it is the first time I’ve ever made pretzels that were so ridiculously easy and foolproof, and cheese-stuffed ones at that. Who knew you could make authentic tasting, Easy Cheesy Pretzel Sticks with just 5 ingredients, in practically no time at all? I certainly didn’t, or I’d have been making a batch of these beautifully browned babies every week.
This recipe is so simple to make that I decided to record a video of the process. My first video, mind you, but as imperfect as it may be, it should erase any doubt in your mind that you can make cheese-stuffed pretzels at home, whenever you want, without spending hours upon hours trying to perfect them.
Pretzel dough itself is surprisingly similar to pizza dough. It generally isn’t left to rise as long so it’s slightly less elastic, but the base recipe is nearly identical. It’s the process of cooking that dough that actually sets the two apart. With this in mind, I decided to go with a premade dough to cut down on time. Pop-can refrigerated breadsticks wound up being absolutely perfect– the dough is already portioned out for pretzel sticks, and they’ve got such a similar texture inside when baked that I could hardly tell the difference from my previous homemade dough endeavors. Chewy, bready, very soft but dense all the same. Like I said, absolutely perfect.
So if the dough is so similar, what exactly is it that makes pretzels pretzels? The answer lays in alkaline, or rather, it bathes in it. To make pretzels, you have to dip the dough into a bath of alkaline and water, which gelatinizes the exterior of the pretzels, helping them brown, making them chewy, and giving them their characteristic pretzel flavor. Sounds intense, right?
Well it is, sometimes. The traditional way to do this involves food-grade lye, but I prefer a much safer and easier solution– baking soda. Now, it’s not uncommon for recipes to call for adding baking soda to a pot of boiling water, dropping in your dough, and then fishing it out with a spoon, but honestly that’s just not entirely necessary. Instead, I like to bake my baking soda first, which creates a stronger alkaline, and then just mix some into a bowl of hot water. Then I can dip the pretzels with my own hands, and I don’t have to risk them falling apart from the boil or from me trying desperately to pluck them from the pot when they’re ready.
But before any dipping goes on, I have to stuff the dough with cheese. I cut some cheese sticks in half, place them towards the bottom of the breadstick, fold the top over, and seal– it’s really that easy. But why am I going on about all of this when you can just see it in this super quick video?
- 1/3 cup baking soda
- 1 11-ounce can refrigerated breadsticks
- 6 cheddar cheese sticks
- Pretzel salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Sprinkle the baking soda onto the foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for an hour.
- Unroll the breadstick dough and pull the sticks apart at the perforations. Cut the cheese sticks in half and place one half at the bottom of each breadstick. Fold the breadstick over the cheese and pinch well to seal all around.
- Crimp the edges of the dough with a fork. This will further help to seal in the cheese. If there are any small tears, dip your finger in water and use it to smooth the dough together.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Fill a large bowl 3/4 of the way with hot water. You want the water to be hot, but not too hot to dip your hand in. Mix in baking soda, a spoonful at a time, until the water is slightly cloudy. You likely will only need a couple of tablespoons worth– save any excess for the next batch. Stir well to dissolve.
- Place a kitchen towel near the bowl. One at a time, dip the pretzels in the baking soda bath, let sit for 10 seconds, transfer to the kitchen towel to drip off excess water, and then place on the prepared baking sheet. Place the pretzels so that they’re lined up in a row, touching at the sides. Continue until all pretzels are dipped and placed.
- Sprinkle with salt, and bake for 14-16 minutes, or until deep golden brown.
- Brush the pretzel sticks with melted butter and serve warm.