Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cheddar Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheddar Cheese Sauce | Super Bowl Sunday

I know it’s only January, but my mind has already been on the Super Bowl for months. I can’t wait for the game on February 5th, or more importantly, to the first real get-together we’ll be hosting at the new place. While I am not nor have I ever been a sports fan personally, my husband is a dedicated football fan. It would be hard not to get at least a little involved after being together as long as we’ve been. I think I even finally found an appreciation for the game itself last year. Now I can (mostly) follow a game with only a few questions a quarter. And worst case, there is the food. I’ve always loved the “genre” of snack food associated with the Super Bowl, tailgating, and other sporting events – hot dogs, hamburgers, buffalo chicken wings with tangy blue cheese sauces – especially when they are homemade with quality ingredients. I think most people can get behind those delicious, bold flavors full of Americana, no uneducated or annoying questions asked.

This month’s series will focus on these types of foods and one of my most eagerly awaited subjects – catering a fun but food-centric Super Bowl Sunday party. Whether you are hosting one yourself or just looking for something ideal for a potluck, the snacks I’ll be posting over the next few weeks are perfect for any foodie sports fan. The first recipe in this series combines two of my favorite snack foods – soft pretzels and cocktail franks. I have always loved pigs in a blanket, and overall they are likely one of the most popular casual appetizers on the market. Believe it or not, I love them even more under their 1920’s moniker of pastry pigs (previously mentioned here). I’m repeating myself, but seriously – how cute is that name? I have to use it. Please help me bring it back!

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

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Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Planning out my 2017 Super Bowl menu started way before I officially began this blog. I knew we’d be having a party, so I dove into a selection of dream recipes I could experiment with to share with my friends. One of the first ideas I became obsessed with were these pastry pigs wrapped in pretzel dough, quickly followed by making some kind of cheese sauce to dip them in. Cheese dips with beer are understandably very popular this time of year, but the idea of apples and cheese intrigued me. Could I accomplish something similar using a hard cider? The answer is yes.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

Before this, I had no idea how simple pretzels are to make. Now that I know, I suspect I will be making pretzel dough far more often. Wrapping strips of the dough around cocktail franks is a little time consuming, but not at all difficult. Enlist a friend or family member to help wrap up the dogs and keep you company, and the project will fly by.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

It all starts with a simple dough. The dough hook on a stand mixer makes this easy, but if you don’t have one at your disposal you can still make this happen by hand and wooden spoon. Once its mixed, you’ll nedd to let it rise for at least an hour. Cover it with a clean cloth, set a timer, and let it be. If you just kneaded the dough by hand, give yourself a break! Maybe drink one of the ciders in the six-pack you picked up for the cheese sauce. Or I suppose you can use the time to prep something else you surely need to get done as your prepare for a party.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

Once the lump of dough has doubled in size, you can dump it out on a well-floured surface and turn it into little ropes to wrap around the cocktail franks. I usually use a silicone mat for rolling out dough, but for some reason I decided to use this wooden cutting board for this trial. I have no idea why, but I will note that it looks nicer in photos.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

You’ll want to start up your big pot of water for the waterbath around now, so that it’s good and boiling by the time you’ve finished prepping your pastry pigs. The baking soda waterbath is what really makes these into actual pretzels. This is a short step, but its definitely an important one!

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

Drop the wrapped up franks a few at a time into the boiling water for only 30-40 seconds, then pull them right out with a slotted spoon to transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush each with egg mixture, sprinkle with salt, and bake 15-20 minutes until they take on a bit of golden color. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. That might sound obvious, but I have let it happen more times than I’d like to admit.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

Ta-da! Perfect little Pretzel Pastry Pigs, ready for a dip in the Hard Cider Cheddar Cheese Sauce!

These are great for potlucks or making ahead too. Just cook the pigs in a blanket until just golden, store on foil-wrapped trays, and reheat them where ever you end up for the game. Do your hosts a favor though, and make sure they have room in the oven ahead of time. As a host who makes a lot of food for her parties, nothing adds that little bit of excess stress like having to make room for a last minute oven item when its already full of carefully timed out dishes. A good host will never let on its a problem, but sometimes it’s not an easy feat. Tell me ahead of time though, and I’ll happily incorporate that dish into the oven schedule!

It’s going to be a delicious month, friends. Glad to have you here.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cheddar Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme
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Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

Pretzel Pastry Pigs

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp salted butter, melted
  • 2 12-ounce packages all-beef cocktail franks
  • 3/4 cups baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water for egg wash
  • Pretzel salt or other coarse sea salt for topping

Hard Cider Cheddar Cheese Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp butter, salted
  • 1 bottle (12 oz) dry-style hard apple cider
  • 15 ounces quality sharp cheddar, shredded (I recommend fresh and not pre-shredded, as this may not melt properly)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tsp cornstarch (optional)

Instructions

Pretzel Pastry Pigs

  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the warm water, yeast, honey, and vegetable oil. Mix this up with a spoon or spatula (don’t turn on the mixer yet), and then allow it to sit until the yeast activates and starts to foam, about 10 minutes. Add the flour, salt, and melted butter, and turn the mixer on low. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, until slightly sticky and pulling away from the walls of the bowl, forming a ball. Place the ball of dough into a separate well-oiled bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Set in a warm place and let it rise until it doubles in size, about one hour.

  2. Once the dough has been allowed to rise, preheat the oven to 450°F and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill a large shallow pot with water and start it boiling on the stove as you work. This will be your water bath. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface (I usually use a large silicone mat or wooden cutting board, but a clean counter works just as well). Knead the dough with your hands a few times, and break the dough into 4-6 manageable chunks. Roll each ball of dough into ropes about ½ inch in diameter. Cut the ropes into pieces about 3 inches long, and wrap each little hot dog in the strips of dough, smoothing or pinching the ends of the dough together. I like to wrap the strips of dough around the back and cross them over front, joining the ends again at the back. I think it looks nice aesthetically, but that certainly isn’t necessary. 

  3. Once the cocktail franks are prepared and the water is boiling, add the baking soda to the pot. Drop the prepared franks into the boiling water a few at a time, and boil each batch for 30-45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on prepared baking sheets, a little space between each. Brush the tops with the egg wash mixture, and sprinkle each with salt. Pretzel salt can sometimes be hard to find or pricier as a specialty ingredient, so I usually just use plenty of coarse salt. Bake the mini pastry pigs for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

Hard Cider Cheddar Cheese Sauce

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour to make a simple roux. Cook for a minute or two, until the mixture thickens and turns a light golden color. Slowly pour in the bottle of hard apple cider and whisk continuously to distribute the roux throughout. Allow to boil for a few minutes until reduced slightly, stirring often. I like to use a silicone whisk, but a wooden spoon works too.

  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the dijon mustard and salt, and then add the shredded cheddar in handfuls. Stir often, making sure nothing sticks or burns to the bottom of the sauce pan, until the cheese melts and the mixtures thickens, 5-10 minutes. If you find the sauce is too loose or liquid, feel free to stir in 1 tsp cornstarch to help the process along. Once at the desired consistency, remove the pan from heat and stir in the brandy. Serve immediately alongside the Pretzel Pastry Pigs in a small bowl with a pinch of black pepper.

Pretzel Pastry Pigs with Hard Cider Cheese Sauce | Feast In Thyme

 

 

 

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