Soft Pretzels with Beer Sauce

I have an unabashed love of soft pretzels. They are the best and most wonderful of comfort foods. Salty, bready, and warm from the oven. But too often any access we have to soft pretzels comes from either a questionable cart on a busy city street or at a ballpark, where they have no doubt charged you at least an arm or a leg. These poor pretzels. They either suffer from sitting in that bizarre twirly glass box all day or have been so overloaded with salt you can't even taste if there's anything underneath them (and maybe you wouldn't *want* to taste it...).
The professionals would have you think that making soft pretzels at home is about as complicated as brain surgery. There are multiple steps and necessary complicated tools and gadgets you'll need. And of course, to make truly "authentic" pretzels, you'll need the feared baker's lye, the stuff of kitchen nightmares, where too much of it, and you'll kill your would-be consumers. 
But seriously. You don't need all that stuff. They're just trying to keep you from the doughy delicious salty glory that is the soft pretzel. And the good people at have figured this out (and what a fantastic name for a blog that is). No lye. No crazy gizmos or gadgets. No crazy ingredients at all. Just a basic yeast-based bread recipe that yields some of the most tasty perfect soft pretzels you've ever had. They even throw in a beer cheese sauce recipe! Now that's thoughtful. 
Makes 8 pretzels 

For the preztels: 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
4 cup all-purpose flour (more as needed)
1 tablespoon canola oil
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water to make an egg wash
coarse sea salt
For the beer cheese sauce: 
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
12 ounces beer (IPA or Pale Ale)
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons hot sauce
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated

For the Pretzels:
In the bowl of a stand mixer (with dough hook attached), combine the water, butter, yeast, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam.

With the speed set on low, add the fine sea salt and the flour until all has been added. Increase the speed to medium, and knead for 5-6 minutes. The dough should start to pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour until the dough is easy to handle.
Drizzle a tablespoon of canola oil into a large bowl. Remove the dough from the stand mixer and form it into a ball. Place the dough into the large bowl and toss so that it is evenly coated with canola oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and place it in an unheated oven to rise for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Once your dough has risen, remove it from the bowl and transfer it to a work surface. Cut it into 8 equally-sized pieces.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and line 2 large baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Set aside.
In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil.
While you wait for you water to come to a boil, take each piece and roll out into a very thin rope. Lay the rope horizontally in front of you and cross the right side over the left. Twist the ends once or twice and flip the ends toward you to form a traditional pretzel-like shape. Press the ends into the bottom of the pretzel to seal. Repeat this step for the rest of the dough. 
Once you have formed your pretzels, add the baking soda (you need to be very careful and slow at this point, it'll bubble up almost immediately) to the boiling water until all of it has been added. One or two at a time, add the pretzels to the water and boil for 30-45 seconds. Remove the pretzels from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer to your prepared baking sheets. Repeat this step for the rest of your pretzels.
Brush your pretzels with the prepared egg wash and sprinkle generously with coarse sea salt. Bake the pretzels at 425 degrees F for 12-15 minutes or until they are brown on top. You may need to switch the two baking sheets halfway through the baking process if your oven does not cook evenly. Remove from oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes more.
For the spicy beer cheese sauce
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes or until a nutty aroma fills the air and your roux is a golden color. 
Slowly whisk in the beer and continue to let it cook, whisking frequently, for 3-4 minute. 
Next, add the milk and whisk again to combine. 
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer, and allow for it to cook until the sauce has thickened and is at a consistency in which you desire. 
Stir in the hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and a dash of salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat, and add the cheese in half cup increments, making sure the cheese has completely melted before you add the rest.
Serve the spicy beer cheese sauce with the pretzels immediately, or store the pretzels in an air tight container where they will keep for about a week.
The cheese can be stored in the fridge for about a week also. When you go to serve it, add it to a small saucepan over low heat to warm gently.