We're of the opinion that homemade is better, even when it comes to snacks. And when it comes to snacks, soft pretzels are pretty high on the totem pole. These soft pretzels couldn't be easier – take pizza dough (storebought or your fave recipes – dunk them in a mix that give it that distinct taste and there you have it. Oh, and obviously they're paired with a cheese sauce. And obviously, our take on that is a beer cheese sauce. Only thing missing is a tailgate.
plus more for rolling the dough
or a Mexican cheese blend
Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Divide the dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into a 12-inch-long rope then cut each rope crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Place the dough pieces on a parchment paper or wax paper-lined rimmed baking sheet.
Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat and add baking soda and, if using, the barley malt syrup (the mixture will foam at first and then subside) and stir to dissolve the syrup. Remove the water from the stove, and carefully dip each bite (use a slotted spoon) into the mixture until it's just coated (this is what helps it look and taste like a pretzel).
The baking soda and barley malt syrup combo is what gives the pretzels they're distinct taste. You can skip the barley malt syrup but you won't quite have that malt-y pretzel flavor.
Transfer bites to baking sheets and immediately sprinkle with coarse salt before they dry (otherwise the salt won’t stick). Repeat with remaining pretzel pieces, making sure to return the water to a boil before cooking more pretzel bites. Bake pretzel bites until deep they are brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer pretzel bites to wire racks to cool while you make the cheese sauce.
For the cheese sauce: Combine the butter and flour in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the beer and the mustard until evenly combined. Add the cheese to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until cheese is melted and smooth, about 3 minutes. Serve with pretzel bites.
You can make the cheese sauce up to 2 days ahead of time. Store refrigerated in an airtight container and then warm over low heat until melted. Stir in a few spoonfuls of water or beer to help it become smooth and pourable again.