Cheddar Beer Soup in Pretzel Bread Bowls

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Some recipes are just meant to be. When I saw this pop up in my reader, three thoughts when through my head. 1. Mmmmm pretzels and cheese. 2. Why have I never made a bread bowl yet? 3. There's beer in my fridge taking up valuable real estate that I need to store holiday foods. See, meant to be!

Cheddar Beer Soup in Pretzel Bread Bowls
Slightly Adapted from: Fake Ginger, adapted from Williams-Sonoma
Yield: 4 bread bowls, soup for 4-6
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Pretzel Bread Bowl Ingredients:
    • 5 1/2 cups bread flour
    • 2 cups + 4 tbsp. hot water (about 125F)
    • 2 envelopes rapid rise yeast
    • 2 tsp. sugar
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 8 cups water
    • 1/4 cup baking soda
    • 2 tbsp. sugar
    • 1 egg white, beaten 
    • cornmeal
    • sea salt 
    Soup Ingredients:
    • 6 slices bacon, roughly chopped
    • 2 stalks celery, diced
    • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
    • 1 large onion, diced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/3 cup AP flour
    • 12 oz. beer
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 2 cups milk
    • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste
Pretzel Bread Bowl Directions:
1. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil. In the bowl of your stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt until a dough forms.
2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough into the greased bowl, turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
3. Lightly flour a baking sheet and working surface. Turn out the dough onto the surface and punch down until the dough is smooth. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape into balls. Place each ball onto the baking sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375. Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring the 8 cups of water to boil in a large pot. Add baking soda and 2 tbs. sugar to the water. (It will foam).
5. Gently place one dough ball into the water and cook for 30 seconds. Flip the dough ball over and cook for another 30 seconds. Carefully transfer the dough ball onto the baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Repeat until you have cooked all of the dough balls.
6. Brush the dough balls with the egg white and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Place the dough balls in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
7. Transfer to racks to cool, and once cool enough to handle, slice off the tops of the bread bowls and hollow out the insides.

Soup Directions:
1. Heat a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Remove approximately two slices worth of the bacon (to use as a garnish) and set aside. Drain excess grease to leave about 2 tablespoons in the pot.
2. Reduce the heat to medium, add the celery, carrots and onion. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft, 25-30 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
3. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3-5 minutes. Then add the beer, stirring constantly for 5 minutes.
4. Stir the broth, milk and Worcestershire sauce and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the soup to a simmer, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Let soup simmer for 15 minutes.
5. While stirring constantly, add the cheese in by the handful until it all has melted.
6. Ladle soup into the pretzel bowls, garnish with bacon and add salt and pepper to taste.

Drool! This soup is so incredibly delicious! The saltiness of the pretzel bowl and the melted gooeyness of the cheese are just great together. The original recipe calls for pureeing the soup before adding the cheese but I wanted some texture to the soup. Tom didn't think he was going to like this at all (he doesn't like beer in food) but he can't wait for me to make it again. It's definitely a great way to warm up on a cold night!

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