If you told me a year ago that I would miss a visit to my local pub the most, I wouldn’t have believed you. At the beginning of lockdown, I was too busy lamenting canceled vacations to give my favorite bar much thought. But, just a little over a year into this pandemic, here I am missing fish and chips and a cold pint more than my own mother…not really, but it is close. It really is the everyday indulgences I miss. Dawdling through the grocery store, meeting up with friends for a cocktail, or popping out for a meal on a whim. But we’re still in this mess, so the best I can do is turn my living room into a watering hole and serve the best pub grub I can muster, like these Poppyseed Pretzel Knots with Beer Braised Onion Queso.
Yes, I know you can get all the grub you could possibly want from where ever you want via an app on your phone. But there are certain items that just don’t travel well. French fries for instance. Really any fried food is not going to tolerate a trip of any length well. So there go most of my pub grub favorites. Even bread is a questionable delivery item. I ordered a burger the other day and it arrived perched on the soggiest bun I’ve ever encountered. So rather than experience the crushing disappointment of pub food delivered. I’ve taken to ordering meal kits when I can and making everything in my power to conjure up the atmosphere of a night at my local. These Poppyseed Pretzel Knots are the most recent installment.
I am aware it is St. Patrick’s Day but I didn’t make these knots in the day’s honor. Pretzels are not Irish after all. But I did use Irish cheddar in the queso. And yes, I did braise my onions in stout. But the truth of the matter is I would’ve done that even if it weren’t March 17th. I mostly buy Irish cheddar, though I have had my head turned by a block of Welsh as well. And stout is one of my partner’s favorite beverages, so it’s readily available and good for braising. I don’t generally acknowledge St. Patty’s all that much, in spite of my Irish last name. I drink a bit of whiskey most nights so really what’s the difference between March 16th and March 17th? But if you want to think of these pretzels as my St. Patrick’s Day contribution, so be it.
These Poppyseed Pretzel Knots and Beer Braised Onion Queso are actually a remix of two recipes that already exist on this site. Is that ingenious or lazy? You decide. The pretzel knots are made using the same dough I used to make these Pretzel Dogs from last summer. And the technique I used for the queso is the same one I put to work when I made this Grilled Corn Queso, also from last summer. So it would be fair to say these pretzels and queso are the wintertime remix of pretzel dogs and corn queso. See? You can make just about any recipe seasonal when you make a few choice alterations.
If you’ve never made pretzels or bagels before, there is a step in this recipe that may throw you. I’m going to ask you to drop your precious dough babies into a pot of boiling water spiked with baking soda. I promise you, this is routine. Nothing bad is going to happen to your knots. In fact, this is the step that transforms your dough from bread dough to pretzel dough. It’s what gives the knots their burnished appearance and, with the help of the malt syrup, their signature chew. Don’t fear the soda bath, it only wants good things for you.
The queso will not throw you in the least. In fact, it might make you feel like you’re missing something because it’s so dang simple. I can’t take credit for the cleverness of this queso recipe. The technique is something I picked up from Serious Eats. Basically, all you do is toss some shredded cheese in some cornstarch and add it to a pot of gently simmering evaporated milk. Stir until smooth and eat. That really is it. And you can get creative with the cheese you use. As I mentioned, I used Irish cheddar but as long as the cheese melts well, you can put any variety your heart desires.
The onions are simple too. So simple their barely worth mentioning. Essentially, you sweat some onions in a skillet, pour in some dark beer and leave them to gently simmer until the beer forms a syrup and coats the onions. You could put these on anything. A burger, a pizza, or serve them over steak. Heck! I bet they’d be good on toast.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Poppyseed Pretzel Knots with Beer Braised Onion Queso. A fun little remix of a few of my summertime favorites to get you through the last remaining frigid weeks. Further evidence that hot cheese dip is always in season.
Poppyseed Pretzel Knots with Beer Braised Onion Queso
- Stand mixer with a dough hook
- 2 large baking sheets
- small saucepan
- large stock pot or dutch oven
Poppyseed Pretzel Knots
- 1½ cups lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp barley malt syrup**
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking soda
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp water
- poppyseeds for sprinkling
Beer Braised Onion Queso
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion cut into half-moons
- ½ tsp salt
- ¾ cup stout
- 285g (10oz) cheddar shredded
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup evaporated milk
For the Knots
- Pour the water, malt syrup, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy.
- Add the olive oil and 1 ½ cups of the flour and mix on low until a loose dough forms. Add the flour in 1/2 cup increments until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is tacky to the touch. You might not need the full amount of flour.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, adding more flour as needed. When the dough feels elastic and silky to the touch, form it into a ball and transfer it to a bowl greased with additional olive oil. Cover and let rise for an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Deflate the dough and divide it into 12 evenly sized balls. My pieces weighed roughly 85g each. Keep the dough covered as you work to prevent it from drying out.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out to form a snake. Fold the snake in half and coil it around itself, then take the end of the coil and wrap it around the center to form a bun. Pinch to form a seal. Set aside. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
- When the knots are all formed, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the baking soda. Working in batches, drop the pretzels into the water. Boil the knots for 30 seconds each side. Transfer the knots to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat and repeat with the remaining knots.
- Whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl. Brush the egg wash over the knots and sprinkle them with the poppyseeds. Transfer the knots to the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Transfer the knots to a cooling rack and let cool slightly. Serve warm.
For the Queso
- Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and saute until just translucent. Stir in the salt and sweat until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.
- Pour the beer into the skillet and bring it to a boil. Reduce to simmer and let cook until the beer reduces to a syrup and coats the onions, about 15 minutes. Take the onions off of the heat and set aside.
- Place the cheese in a large bowl. Add the cornstarch and toss to coat.
- Pour the evaporated milk into a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Heat the milk until on the verge of boiling. Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese. Stir until the mixture is smooth and velvety.
- Take the queso off of the heat and stir in the onions. Pour the queso into a heat-proof vessel, I used a French onion soup bowl, and serve alongside warm Poppyseed Pretzel Knots.