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January 30, 2017

Cheesy Buffalo Pretzel Ring

I'm not the most popular person in Wisconsin right now. As one of the ~5 people in Madison from Atlanta when the Falcons are in the Superbowl but the Packers aren't, people aren't exactly thrilled when football comes up. Fortunately, I have a way to regain my social standing, and it involves buckets of buffalo sauce. This cheesy buffalo pretzel ring has nuggets of fluffy fresh pretzels surrounding a pool of molten, cheesy chicken dip loaded with hot sauce. If you want even more pretzel goodness, serve it at your Superbowl party along with Pretzel Nuggets with Beer Cheese Dip. If you don't have enough time to make pretzels from scratch, these Buffalo Chicken Meatball Sliders are just as tasty. If you'd rather throw some food on the stove and pay more attention to the game, Beer Chili is always a crowd favorite. For more Superbowl bites, check out my Recipe Index.


The pretzel rolls are the same as those in the Pretzel Nuggets with Beer Cheese Dip. The dough is versatile and forgiving; it's relatively easy to make for a bread dough and is definitely worth trying if you've never baked bread before. I make little bite-sized nuggets for this dish, but you can make bigger dinner rolls or even giant pretzel buns for burgers and sandwiches.


If you aren't a fan of pretzel rolls, you can make regular rolls by skipping the boiling step. To make a pretzel, you have to boil the dough briefly in a hot baking soda solution. This gives it that gorgeous mahogany sheen, chewy texture, and signature pretzel taste. I'm pretty sure mall pretzels--though indisputably addictive--take a shortcut by just brushing on the baking soda solution, but true pretzels are boiled. Skipping it still gives you some pretty tasty bread, but there's something about homemade pretzels that makes any party better.


As for the dip, it's everything decadent and game day-esque mixed into one bubbling monster of a calorie bomb. It has a cream cheese and ranch base (I make my own ranch with buttermilk and mayo but you can sub in premade ranch dressing if you so desire... I won't judge you for not buying a quart of buttermilk if you only need two tablespoons) with hot sauce, shredded chicken, and plenty of cheese. I seared and baked my own chicken, but using a rotisserie chicken is another way to make this appetizer even easier. I shredded it pretty finely since it's going into a dip, but you can leave it as big as you want if you plan on shoveling gobs of the dip into your mouth when people are focused on the Superbowl ads instead. I used shredded pepper jack cheese for an extra kick, but really any good melting cheese could work instead. Bleu cheese would really amp up the buffalo vibes, but it's a pretty polarizing cheese so use at your own discretion.


The only way to make cheese and pretzels better is to combine them and marry them with buffalo chicken. I've taken to eating all the pretzels around the ring and leaving the dip for the rest of my family, so making some extra pretzel rolls may be a good idea. Maybe my fellow badgers will use them to mop up their tears when they don't see the Packers playing on Sunday, or perhaps I'm still gloating (even though I've been overstating how much I care about the Falcons and football in general *just* a little bit; I'm more of a puppy bowl fan).


2 1/4 tsp Yeast
1 T Sugar
4 1/2 - 5 Cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1/2 Stick Butter, Melted
1/4 Cup Baking Soda
1 Egg, Beaten
1/2 - 1 lb Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts (Or Rotisserie Chicken)
8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
1/2 Cup Hot Sauce
3 T Mayonnaise
2 T Buttermilk (or 1/4 Cup Ranch Dressing)
2/3 Cup Shredded Cheese (i.e. Pepperjack, Cheddar, Bleu)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 ½ cups warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes or until foamy. Using the dough hook, stir in the butter, 3 cups of flour, and the salt. Knead for 5 minutes, gradually adding the remaining flour as necessary until it's not too sticky.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour. Line cookie trays with parchment or silpats. Roll the dough into nuggets, place on the prepared trays, cover, and let rise for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Gradually stir in the baking soda. Boil the nuggets in batches for 1 minute per batch, stirring to flip often. Remove with a slotted spoon and place back on the trays.

Heat oven to 375F.

Heat some oil in a pan. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and sear on both sides until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.

Mix the cream cheese, hot sauce, mayonnaise and buttermilk (or ranch), and shredded cheese. Shred the cooled chicken and mix into the cheese mixture.

Grease a large skillet or cake pan. Arrange the pretzel nuggets around the edges; place any extras back on the cookie trays to bake separately. Pile the buffalo dip in the middle of the skillet. Brush the pretzels with the egg and use food scissors or a sharp knife to cut an x in the center of each one. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and bake for 20 minutes or until the pretzels are brown and the cheese is bubbly.

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