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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup and Pretzels!

Today we are expecting some real winter weather and Kevin requested 'soup' for dinner. It's snowing as I write...that is REAL winter weather, finally!!! We can't wait for ski season...
I recently found what sounded like a fantastic beer cheese soup recipe so I decided to try it tonight.
Since cheese soup goes really well with pretzels, I made a big batch of homemade soft pretzels!!
Alton Brown came through, once again, with a wonderful, easy, and incredibly delicious pretzels!
Thanks, Alton! (I've made these many times- some of you might remember the Lenten Family Retreat where we made these pretzels)

Before you get the pretzels going, do the following prep:

Peel and dice one onion
dice two stalks of celery
peel crush and mince 2 cloves of garlic
peel and dice 2 whole carrots
grate 3 cups of sharp cheddar cheese
grate 1 cup of Gruyere cheese

You have to start the pretzels before making the soup...
Here's the recipe...Alton Brown's Recipe for Amazing Homemade Pretzels
So ...first you take the yeast, kosher salt, warm water and sugar and let it proof...
then, add it to the flour in a Kitchen Aid Mixer with a dough hook and add the butter...

Mix on low until it comes together, then increase it to medium and let it go for at least 5 minutes until it's a silky ball of gluten developed goodness...

remove it from the bowl, clean the bowl thoroughly, and add a tablespoon of oil to the bowl and toss the ball of dough around in the oil. Put the bowl in the warmest place in the kitchen and cover with several towels. Let this sit at least 1 hour, until it doubles.
Dump it on an oiled surface (I just brushed my wooden cutting board with some oil) and proceed to divide! RIGHT after you heat the oven to 450 degrees...
I cut the dough in half, then in half again, then cut each half into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long thin rope (about 18" or so) and then loop into a pretzel shape.  Do the same with the other piece....and place each pretzel on a piece of parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. OK, PAM, or whatever version that Costco sells...You should have two trays of pretzels. 
Boil 5 cups of water with 1/2 cup of baking soda until it's at a hard and fast boil. Dip each pretzel into this boiling mixture for 30 seconds and put back on the greased parchment after boiling until all are boiled. They pouf up a bit from being boiled...make sure you use a slotted spoon to remove the pretzels- you do not want a lot of water on the parchment paper for the baking process.
Then, beat one egg yolk (you do have to separate the yolk from the white- the whites freeze very well in a ice cube tray that has been sprayed with cooking spray) and add 1 tablespoon of water as you beat the yolk in a little bowl. Brush the yolk mixture lightly on all the pretzels, and top each pretzel with a little kosher salt. Yes, you are supposed to use pretzel salt, but who has that in their pantry?
Put the trays in the oven for 14 minutes, rotating the trays after 7 minutes so they will brown evenly. 

When the pretzels are in the oven, start the soup.
Saute the veggies in 2 tablespoons of butter for about 6 minutes or so.  
Add 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1/2 tsp of dried sage and 1 bay leaf to the saute. Let the spices go for at least 1 minute - or until you can smell their fragrance! 
Add 1/3 cup of flour to the mix and stir well. Cook and stir frequently for about 4 minutes. 
Add 2 cups of chicken broth (or veggie broth) 2 cups of half and half and 1 bottle of pumpkin ale. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes. Blend with a stick blender until everything is very smooth! 

Add one teaspoon of kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of smoked paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. 
Stir until well incorporated. 
Add one 16 ounce can of pureed pumpkin to the mixture and blend in well. 
Add 3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (trust me, you don't want to use mild cheese!!) and handful at a time, until incorporated. Add 1 cup of shredded Gruyere cheese to the mixture, one handful at a time, until well incorporated. Add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (or more if you like) and serve! 

Serve with your delicious pretzels! 
Leftover pretzels freeze wonderfully well-I put mine in a freezer bag. When you need pretzels,  just pop them in a 450 oven on a sprayed pan for 5 minutes before serving. 
We like spicy, so if you don't like spicy, you might want to exclude the red pepper flakes and smoked paprika- but they are so yummy!!! 
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