I always look forward to Super Bowl Sunday, and I’ve had some really great experiences throughout the years. And to be honest, all of my memories seem to revolve around food.
When I was younger, my family would always watch the game with our neighbors—one of which happened to be a chef! The food was obviously superb, and I became a big fan of stuffed mushroom caps at an early age.
When the Colts last won in 2007, I watched the game with my parents at a family friend’s house. I’m a big seafood fan, and that year Larry’s wife made the best cioppino and homemade sourdough bread. It was my first time having the dish, and I still think about how wonderful it was. That year was also extra special because we had a snow day on Monday.
Each year I try to come up with a signature Super Bowl dish, and because my memories are so closely tied with food, it has to be something really special. After making buffalo chicken dip the past two years I definitely wanted to do something really unique this year.
I decided I wanted to incorporate my cast iron skillet because it makes for a really nice presentation, and I definitely don’t use it enough. I started exploring the idea od homemade pretzels, and I ultimately came up with a recipe for soft pretzels in the skillet with a spicy, cheesy dipping sauce.
I had never made pretzels before, so I did some research on the easiest possible way to make them. It turns out the pretzel dough itself isn’t all that unique. It’s pretty much just your basic dough recipe. The method for baking the dough is what transforms it into a pretzel.
The way that you transform regular dough into a pretzel is by boiling it in water and baking soda before baking it. It’s the baking soda that gives the dough it’s brown color and distinctive flavor.
How does this work? Okay, we’re about to get really scientific.
The pH scale measures the acidity of a substance. It typically goes from 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic. Generally, water on it’s own is neutral and sits at a 7 on the scale. But baking soda is very basic. So when you add baking soda to the water, it moves the pH level of the water to about a 10 or 11.
Letting the dough soak in a boiling water/baking soda bath alters the sugars and amino acids so that when it bakes the center puffs up and the outside turns brown.
If you skip this step, your pretzels will be pale and essentially just biscuits shaped like pretzels.
This proves once again that baking really is a science!
If that’s too much for you to handle, don’t even worry about it. Basically, all you need to know is that if you follow the directions below, you’ll have delicious, soft pretzels and a spicy cheese sauce.
Spicy Cheese Pretzel Skillet
Yield: Makes about 32 small soft pretzels
- 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (reserve 1/4 cup to sprinkle on top)
- 8 ounces Challenge cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup hot sauce
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 can refrigerated biscuit dough
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- Egg wash (1 egg mixed with 2 Tablespoons water), for brushing pretzel dough
- Sea salt, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cast iron skillet with oil.
- Make spicy cheese dip by mixing together cheddar, cream cheese, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder; set aside.
- Cut each pre-sliced biscuit into quarters and roll into a ball; set aside.
- Bring water and baking soda to a boil in a small saucepan. Drop biscuit dough into boiling water and let cook for one minute. Remove biscuit dough from water with slotted spoon and transfer to cast iron skillet forming a ring along the inside edge.
- Brush biscuits with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Transfer spicy cheese dip to center of skillet and sprinkle reserved cheddar on top.
- Bake for about 30 to 35 minutes or until biscuits are golden brown and cheese dip is bubbly.
- Sprinkle sliced green onion on top before serving if desired.