Two years ago Alex went down to Woodberry Kitchen to do a cocktail event. One of the canapes that he and Isiah worked out were these puffed pretzels, filled with a beer cheese sauce. Isiah graciously shared his recipe for the pretzels and we added our own twist by using beer and increasing the butter, ever so slightly. The bones of this recipe are all Isiah so we thank him for being so willing to let us share it with you. When filled with gooey cheese the puffed pretzels are like the best possible rendition of Combos (I had no idea they still existed till we wrote this post). They are light and crispy on the outside, giving way to warm cheesy goodness. Even if the cheese cools, a great filling is still something special and yummy to be enjoyed. Much like pommes souffles, not all of the pretzels will puff. Think of the the flat ones as a treat for the chef. They are also wonderful filled with avocado puree, homemade hummus or chocolate-peanut butter ganache. The possibilities are endless.
725 grams AP flour
50 grams sugar
15 grams salt
10 grams active dry yeast
300 grams Asahi beer
100 grams (2 large) eggs
113 grams diced unsalted butter
85 grams egg whites
40 grams kansui
Put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix briefly to combine. Put the beer and eggs in a bowl or pitcher and whisk them together. Turn the mixer on low and slowly pour the beer mixture into the flour mixture until it comes together into a rough dough. Turn the mixer up to medium low and knead for 5 minutes, it will become smooth and elastic. With the mixer still running add the butter a few pieces at a time, letting each addition become absorbed by the dough before adding more, until all of the butter has been incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and knead for 3 more minutes until the dough forms a smooth ball. Turn it out onto a clean counter and knead the dough a few times by hand to finish it. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap. Let it rise 2 hours at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 425°F/400°F convection
Put the egg whites and kansui in a small bowl and whisk them together until just combined. Using a rubber spatula gently loosen the dough from the bowl. Dampen your hands with cool water and slide one hand under one side of the dough. Fold that side of the dough into the center and press down gently so it adheres to itself. Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the folding process. Do this two more times. After the fourth fold, flip over the dough so the seams are on the bottom. Cut the dough into quarters. Use a rolling pin or a pasta machine to roll the dough out to a thickness of 2mm. Cut into 2-inch squares and lay them out leaving at least an inch between pieces on parchment lined sheet pans. Brush with egg white-kansui mixture. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake for about 10 minutes until the pretzels have puffed and turned a deep golden brown. Be aware that not all of the pretzels will puff dramatically, but they will still be delicious. Let them cool on the pans or transfer to a rack.