During my fourteen years of being sans meat, I’ve found that when you ask vegetarians “Why aren’t you a vegan?” their response is either “too expensive” or “cheese.” In order to help my comrades–in–vegetables out, I’m scouring the internet for the cheesiest meat-free recipes around. Join me on my journey to recreate the best, and learn the history of our favorite cheese while we’re at it.
Missed last week’s recipe? Check out these better-than-takeout cheese wontons.
Every time I go to the mall, I have to get a warm pretzel. It doesn’t feel right to walk past the salty carbs and ignore them. This recipe for Asiago Pretzels makes all of my dreams come true: It’s gooey and soft like the mall pretzels, but it won’t empty out my wallet at a department store when I’m finished eating. Plus, it features my favorite cheese—the pungent and delicious asiago.
Similar to Parmigiano Reggiano, authentic Asiago has a Protected Designation of Origin, meaning the official stuff can only come from the Asiago Plateau in the mountains of the Veneto region in Italy (the capital is Venice). Lucky for us, cheesemakers and grocers sell asiago-styles stateside that are more than good enough to win us over. For this recipe, you’ll need to buy a wedge and grate it or buy a container that comes pre-shredded.
Although the original version was made over one thousand years ago with sheep’s milk, asiago today is created with cow’s. Fresh asiago, known as asiago pressato, is made with whole milk and only aged for a month—its soft texture makes it perfect for melting. The harder, more popular version made with whole and skim milk, asiago d’allevo, is aged anywhere from four months to two years. Since it turns crumbly, it’s best shaved over salads or pasta.
I know what you’re thinking—”This history lesson is great, but why does it smell like that?” It’s true: asiago smells sorta like feet, but it also tastes like heaven. Culture’s go-to cheese expert Gianaclis Caldwell notes “that the same odor-manufacturing bacteria are present on both toes and on cheese. These bacteria produce volatile chemicals with memorable aromas while transforming the proteins in cheese into unbelievably delicious flavors.” So, kinda icky, but definitely delicious; now, let’s dive into world of perfect mall pretzels.
This recipe comes from the Accidental Happy Baker, who made the recipe for the softest pretzels, ever! Read ahead to find out how to make your own.
- 1½ cups warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- ¾ cup shredded asiago cheese, divided
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3-4 cups of all purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 cups of hot water
- ¼ cup baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- coarse sea salt, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425° F. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- To start making dough, mix warm water with yeast and stir well with spoon to rid any clumps. Mix in salt, sugar, and ¼ cup of the asiago cheese. Stir.
- Once completely combined, add flour one cup at a time, stirring in btween, until the dough no longer feels sticky. Roll the dough into a smooth ball and begin to knead on a floured surface.
- Cut the round ball in half with a sharp knife. Keep cutting in half until you have 12 total pieces.
- Roll each round of dough out until it becomes a U shape. Twist the ends together and fold up to create pretzel shape. (Check out the video above for visual cues.)
- In a large bowl, mix the hot water with baking soda. Dip each pretzel into liquid and place onto prepared cookie sheet.
- Sprinkle each pretzel with as much (or as little) of the remaining asiago.
- Bake for 10 minutes until golden brown.
- In a small bowl with paper towel on top, melt butter. Add in garlic powder. Drizzle or brush the butter on top of each warm pretzel. Sprinkle with salt.