Pesto + mozzarella stuffed soft pretzels are cheesy and soft and make the perfect snack–or dinner if you’re anything like me.
Sometimes I forget that my stand mixer is good for something other than making cookies. Or cake. Or frosting. Or sweets in general. And after weeks upon weeks of turning out nothing but cavity-inducing sweet treats I get sick of sugar—no really, I do—and decide to go a little more savory.
I blame this forgetfulness on the sugar coma in which I live most of my life. That’s a legit reason. Or so I tell myself.
I baked two batches of cookies yesterday and was shaking so hard after taste-testing that I was like, is this what it’s like for hummingbirds after they drink too much coffee? So something a little more savory was in order.
And you’re gonna be SO glad I went savory this time. Because we’re making PRETZELS! Giant, soft, cheese-stuffed pretzels. And they’re not even difficult to make!
Honestly, I was a little worried that stuffing them would be a nightmare I could live without, that I’d be tempted to over-stuff (and I was tempted but resisted) and I wouldn’t be able to form a pretzel without the filling leaking out.
But it turns out that it’s not the end of the world if the filling leaks a bit; the cheese will get crunchy against the pan. (Like when you make grilled cheese and accidentally let most of the cheese leak out so you’re essentially just eating crunchy bits of fried cheddar. It’s the best!)
Still though, do your best to seal the pretzel around the filling because the leaks are not ideal during the boiling process. (Green swamp water. Need I say more?)
The boiling process also is shockingly simple. You just heat a giant pot of water to boiling with plenty of baking soda, then pop the pretzels in one at a time for 30 seconds. Simple. The baking soda bath is what gives pretzels their brown outsides—to achieve that level of brownness without the baking soda you’d have to bake the pretzels for a much longer time and they wouldn’t be soft and chewy at that point.
After you boil them, place the pretzels on a baking sheet, top with salt, bake, then EAT yourself sick because the pesto is green so you’re basically eating health food.
It’s possible I should see a nutritionist to disabuse myself of my ugly ideas about what constitutes health food. But then I’d probably stop blogging and life wouldn’t be as much fun.
So, no nutritionist. I’ll just eat another pretzel and call it a day.
PS, I’ve had this post scheduled for weeks so it’s a total coincidence that I’m posting something green(-ish) today. Because you know what else is green? My DUCKS! Yes, the Oregon Ducks, my hometown team, are in the Final Four for the first time in FOREVER! I’m heading to Phoenix today to watch. I’m almost as excited about that as I am these ridiculously delicious pretzels. Happy almost-weekend!
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (don’t use fresh)
- about 6 tablespoons pesto
- 1 large pot filled with 10 cups of water
- 2/3 cup baking soda
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- pretzel salt or other coarse salt for sprinkling
- Combine water and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Sprinkle yeast over the top and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture gets foamy. Stir in butter.
- Add 3 1/2 cups of the flour, mix briefly, then add the salt. Set mixer to low speed and mix until all ingredients are combined. Turn mixer up to medium and add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Spray a large mixing bowl with cooking spray and transfer pretzel dough into it, rolling dough over several times to coat with spray. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, then spray paper lightly with cooking spray.
- Add baking soda to the large pot filled with water and bring to a rolling boil.
- Meanwhile, deflate dough gently, then place on a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 20-inch rope, lay the rope on the counter, and press out flat to about 3 inches wide.
- Spread about 2 teaspoons of pesto down the center of the rope (avoiding the top and bottom edges), then sprinkle cheese over the top of the pesto. Don’t spread pesto or cheese all the way to the edges of the rope or they will leak out. Pinch the sides of the rope together over the top of the cheese to close. Make a U shape with the rope. Holding each end of the rope, cross them over each other and press into the bottom of the U to make a pretzel shape. (See photos in post for a visual and don’t worry if your technique isn’t perfect immediately.) Place pretzels on prepared baking sheets. Allow to rise until very puffy.
- Use a spatula to help you transfer pretzels into the boiling water one at a time. Boil each for 30 seconds. Remove from the water and replace them on baking sheets.
- Whisk together egg yolk and water. After pretzels are boiled, brush mixture over the top of each pretzel, then sprinkle with salt.
- Bake until dark golden in color, about 12 to 14 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before serving.
Adapted from Alton Brown