Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce

I came this close to sharing another ice cream recipe with you today. It’s a new favorite and I’m kind of obsessed with it right now, so I totally wanted to jump it in the blog drafts queue to post it sooner. However, it includes some chocolate, and between yesterday’s chocolate macaroon bundt cake, and Monday’s mocha cupcakes, I figured maybe you’d already had enough chocolate this week. Or is that completely crazy? Can there ever be too much chocolate? :) Anyway, I’m only going to push the ice cream out until next week so you won’t have to wait long!

Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce

Instead, today I bring you a completely addictive, fun to make snack: pretzel bites! I already know you guys are huge fans of pretzel bites because this recipe I posted over three years ago continues to be one of the most popular on the site. I love it too, it makes the best pretzels! If you’re wondering why I needed another recipe having said that, the main reason I tried this new recipe was because of the inclusion of whole wheat flour. I’ve been trying to include more whole grains in my baking when possible, and more than half of the flour in this recipe is whole wheat. It makes it easier to justify just a few more pretzel bites, they’re “healthy” right? :)

Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce

Besides, I needed something to dip in this amazing roasted jalapeño cheese sauce. You will want to drizzle this cheese sauce over everything once you’ve tried it. So thick, creamy and cheesy, with just a little bit of heat from the jalapeño, it’s really good.

A lot of times when I use white whole wheat flour in recipes I’ll mention that you won’t even be able to tell there’s whole wheat flour. That’s not the case here – the pretzel bites definitely have a bit of that nutty depth of flavor that whole wheat flour imparts. I’ve come to really love it as I’ve been baking with whole wheat more and more. And don’t worry, the texture of the pretzel bites is still just as wonderfully soft and chewy on the inside as you’d expect.

These pretzel bites are the perfect finger food for parties and game day. I’ll definitely be whipping up a batch before Saturday’s game in hopes of turning our luck around (anyone else dragging today after last night’s game going to 3 OT?) :)

Whole Wheat Pretzel Bites with Roasted Jalapeño Cheese Sauce
pretzel bites adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, sauce adapted from Smells Like Home

Pretzels

Dough
1 3/4 cups (7 oz) white whole wheat flour
1 cup water, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups (6 3/8 oz) bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon honey

Water Bath
8 cups water
2 tablespoons baking soda

Finishing
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt (for egg wash)
pretzel (or kosher) salt (for topping)

Jalapeño Cheese Sauce
1 large jalapeño
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk (I used whole)
6 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the white whole wheat flour and the water using a wooden spoon until combined. Cover the bowl and let rest for 20 minutes. Add the butter, bread flour, salt, yeast, and honey, and again mix with the wooden spoon until a rough dough comes together. Place the bowl on the mixer and fit the mixer with the dough hook. Knead on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the bowl again and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

When the dough nears the end of its rise time, preheat oven to 450 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the water to a large pot and set over medium to medium-high heat. Let it come to a boil as you shape the pretzel bites.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope, measuring about 1/2-inch thick. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make pretzel bites. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.

Return to the water bath and once the water is boiling, reduce the heat so it simmers and stir in the baking soda. Add about 10-15 pretzel bites at a time to the water bath and cook for 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon or spider strainer and place the pretzel bites on the prepared baking sheets, making sure they are spread in a single layer. Repeat until all of the pretzel bites have been boiled. Brush the pretzel bites with the egg wash and sprinkle liberally with the salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. The pretzel bites are best served warm.

To make the cheese sauce: Roast the jalapeño until blackened on all sides – I did this on my gas stovetop, but you could also use your oven’s broiler if you’d rather. Once blackened, place the jalapeño in a bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let stand for 10-15 minutes, then peel the blackened skin from the pepper. Remove the ribs and seeds from the pepper (unless you want to leave them for the extra heat) and cut the pepper into 1/4-inch pieces.

Add the butter to a small saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Let the butter melt, then mix in the jalapeño pieces, tossing to coat with the butter. Add the flour, whisking constantly and cooking for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Whisking almost constantly, continue cooking until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off of the heat and add the shredded cheese. Stir until the cheese has completely melted and the sauce is smooth. You can adjust the consistency as necessary here – my sauce was a little thicker than I wanted so I thinned it with a tiny bit of milk. Season to taste with salt.