(Easy Cheesy Pizza Pretzel Poppers – try saying that ten times fast! Recipe in post, step-by-step photos included.)
Do you have plans for game day, this year? The big matchup is right around the corner, and if you’re the one with the big-screen TV chances are you’re planning on guests – or at least planning on being a guest wherever the big-screen is. Either way, you’ll be needing some snackables. There’s the chips and guacamole, the out-of-the-bag-processed-cheese delicacies, the wings, and you know everyone’s going to show up with booze… so what’s left?
More beer? Pretzels? Pizza? What about all three… in one poppable package!
Imagine Tostino’s Pizza Rolls – weren’t they just about the greatest thing when you were a kid? These are a little like those, only all grow’d up.
Soft pretzel bites made with beer right in the dough (optional, but why not?) stuffed with pizza goodness and served with marinara dipping sauce – you heard me. Beer pizza pretzel bites. Starting to feel pumped for the game now, huh?
Ever since making regular soft pretzels with some friends of mine, I’ve wanted to try my own hand at it. While they use the more traditional, albeit harder to obtain, method of dunking the dough in lye, I was curious how well the more common technique of boiling in baking soda would work. I was by no means disappointed.
While these take a little prep time, the dough can be made the night before to save on precious hours come the big day. And of course, they can easily be made sans the filling, either rolled into a rope and tied in the traditional pretzel knot or just cut into 1 inch pieces for pretzel bites.
Pizza Pretzel Poppers
(Dough recipe adapted from Two Peas And Their Pod – makes about 80-90 poppers)
1/4 cup warm (115f.) water
1 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP barley malt syrup (can substitute honey, molasses, or golden syrup)
2 1/4 tsp. (or one packet) active dry yeast
6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt (or 1 1/4 tsp. sea/table salt)
1 1/4 cup room temperature stout beer or porter (if you’d rather save the beer for drinking on the side, simply substitute with more warm water)
4 1/2 – 5 cups all-purpose flour
Vegetable or olive oil for greasing the bowl
3 quarts water
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg + 1 TBSP cold water, beaten together
Coarse sea salt
For the filling:
(Amounts are approximate)
7 oz. pepperoni (or cooked sausage, ham, or other)
10 oz. mozzarella cheese (or other cheese – hint: string cheese works well because of convenience and low water content)
1/4 – 1/2 cup pizza or marinara sauce, plus more for dipping (recipe below, or use store bought)
For the pizza sauce:
3 lbs. roma tomatoes*
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. any Italian herbs/seasonings: basil, oregano, parsley, etc. (or 1/2 heaping tsp. of seasoning blend)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Optional: 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Optional: any other herbs/spices you want to add, from BBQ to ranch seasoning
*Other varieties of tomato will work as well, but tend to be juicier and will require more reducing.
In a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) combine water, sugar, malt, yeast, and butter. Let sit 5+ minutes, or until the yeast has begun to foam. Add the beer.
In another bowl measure 4.5 cups flour and the salt.
Beginning stirring the yeast/beer mixture (or mixing on low speed with a dough hook or paddle attachment) and add the flour as you stir. Once it looks shaggy go in with your hands and knead until the dough comes together into a ball (or increase the speed to medium on your stand mixer).
Roll out onto a lightly-floured counter top and knead 4-5 minutes, or until smooth and supple. If the dough is at all sticky, add additional flour 1 TBSP at a time.
Form the dough into a ball.
Oil a large bowl and add the dough, turning to coat all sides thoroughly. Cover loosely with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1-3 hours, or until doubled in size (rising time will vary depending on the temperature/humidity).
(Dough before and after rising.)
Once the dough has rested it can be used immediately, or stored in the fridge overnight.
While the dough rests, make the pizza sauce.
Preheat oven to 350f.
Core and slice in half lengthwise all of your tomatoes. Lay the tomatoes skin-side down on a foil covered baking sheet, and roast for 1 hour, rotating the pan half way through.
(Before and after roasting.)
Add roasted tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor or blender, add all seasonings, and blend until smooth.
Pour sauce into a pot over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half. Taste and adjust seasonings.
The sauce can be used immediately, stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or frozen/canned for up to a year or more.
Prep the fillings:
If using sausage or other uncooked meat, cook it first and set aside.
Slice cheese into long thin strips, or (if using string cheese) slice in half lengthwise and set aside.
Gently punch the dough down, pressing your fist into it to release some of the gasses, and cut into quarters – work with one quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough covered so it doesn’t dry out.
Roll your piece of dough into a rope about 1 inch thick. Flatten (or roll with a rolling pin) to about 3 inches wide and maybe 20-22 inches long.
Spread the dough with 1-2 TBSP of pizza sauce (not too much, or you won’t be able to seal the dough later), pepperoni or other filling, and cheese slices.
Roll the edges of the dough up and pinch very firmly to seal. Fold the ends up and pinch them shut, creating one long (and suggestively shaped) rope. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
Slice into 1 inch bites, and let rest 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450f. and bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
Wisk together the egg and TBSP water and set aside.
Spray or brush a baking sheet with olive oil, set aside.
Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda.
In batches of 6-8 at a time, lower or gently drop pretzel bites into the water. Let boil 30-40 seconds, then remove with a strainer or slotted spoon to your lightly greased baking sheet. Repeat until the sheet is full. (Note: if you lose some of the fillings while boiling, don’t worry… it’s par for the coarse.)
Quickly brush the pretzel bites with the egg/water mixture, and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt.
(Before and after baking.)
Bake 14-16 minutes, or until golden and oozing cheese out the sides – fear not, that crunchy baked cheese is a good thing.
Serve hot from the oven with extra marinara sauce for dipping, and beer for drinking.
I actually made these pizza poppers three ways before deciding on the method above. My other attempts included:
A. Folding the dough around the filling in individual pieces (which resulted in not enough filling-to-pretzel ratio, and was way too labor intensive).
and B. making the rope as instructed above, boiling/baking it whole and then slicing it post-cooking (this kept the filling intact and is a great second choice to the one given, though I would suggest reducing the oven temperature to 425f. and cooking slightly longer to avoid any undercooked dough).
Personally, I found the ones I decided on to be the most pizza-like. Plus, if you’re like me, you’ll love the crispy baked cheese that oozes out of the sides – that’s the best part!
At under 50 calories a piece, this is some manly munch-food everyone’s going to want a piece of.
So… do you know the game plan?