What four words, when combined, are some of the best words ever put together in the entirety of the English language? Chili. Cheese. Pretzel. Dogs.
Ever since I made those homemade pretzels and beer cheese, I knew that a chili cheese pretzel dog was in my future — I just didn’t know when. But, today is the day, y’all. And they’re glorious.
Take a soft yet crispy homemade pretzel roll. Add a nicely charred all-beef hot dog, some spicy chili, and a small mountain of cheddar cheese, and you have one damn fine meal, perfect for summertime backyard parties or just a fun and kid-friendly lunch or dinner. How ’bout it?
chili cheese pretzel dogs
(makes 8 pretzel dogs)
1 1/2 c (360 g) warm water
1 Tbs (16 g) granulated sugar
2 tsp (14 g) salt
2 1/2 tsp (10 g) active dry yeast
2 tsp (10 g) baking powder
4 1/2 c (623 g) bread flour
2 oz (4 Tbs / 60 g) unsalted butter, melted
2 quarts warm water
2 Tbs food-grade lye OR 1/2 c baking soda (I used lye, which can be found on Amazon)
coarse salt, for sprinkling
8 all-beef bun length hot dogs
2 – 15 ounce cans prepared chili, OR 4 cups prepared chili of your choice
5 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, finely shredded
sour cream and chopped green onion, optional
In a glass measuring cup, heat the 1 1/2 cups of warm water in the microwave for 15-20 seconds, until slightly warmer than body temperature. Stir in the sugar, salt, and yeast; let sit until foamy on top.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, baking powder, and melted butter. Add the foamy yeast-water mixture and mix on low speed until a uniform dough forms. Turn the mixer to medium speed and mix for 2 minutes until the dough is very smooth and not sticky.
Scrape the dough out into a large oiled bowl and cover with a cloth or a piece of plastic wrap. Set in a warm place and allow to rise for one hour, until doubled in size. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
When the dough has about 10 minutes left to rise, put the 2 quarts of warm water into a large (4-6 quart) stainless steel pot, and carefully stir in the lye or the baking soda. Set over high heat and when the pot comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
Once the dough has fully risen, punch down and divide into 8 portions, 4.75 ounces each if you want to be precise. Shape each portion into a smooth ball, and then roll into a small log shape on an unfloured surface, to about 6 inches long. Place the shaped pretzels onto a sheet pan that has been lined with very well-greased parchment paper, or a greased silicone mat. Once all the pretzels are formed, drop 4 pretzels at a time into the steaming lye/baking soda bath. Allow them to soak for 30 seconds per side before removing them with a slotted spoon and placing them back on their pan.
Once all the pretzels are dipped, sprinkle them lightly with coarse salt and make three somewhat shallow cuts on top using a pair of scissors. Bake the pretzels in the preheated oven on the lower rack for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 12 minutes or so, until deep golden brown. Remove from the oven and remove the pretzels to a cooling rack.
For the hot dogs and chili: On the same pan you used for the pretzels, remove the silicone mat or parchment paper and place the 8 hot dogs. Turn on the broiler to high and once hot, set the pan of hot dogs on the rack closest to the broiler. Allow to cook for 8 minutes until they’re nicely charred.
While the hot dogs cook, warm up the chili in a small pot over medium heat, until bubbling and hot.
To serve, slice each pretzel roll lengthwise from the top, cutting deeply but not so far as to separate the halves. Place a hot dog in the roll, and cover with half a cup of the hot chili. Sprinkle on a little more than half an ounce of cheese, and eat immediately while hot! If you’d like, garnish with a bit of sour cream and chopped green onion, or a little hot sauce if that’s your thing!