You can’t resist these chewy and salty soft pretzel bites for a hearty snack.
Since the 19th century, St. Louis and beer have had a perfect marriage. When Johann Adam Lemp brewed the first lager in St. Louis (possibly in the country) in the late 1830s or early 1840s from his grocery store, the beginning of his beer empire was timed perfectly with the wave of German immigrants moving west. By 1870, there were 50 breweries in town, although many folded during the Prohibition era. Today, craft brewers are flourishing in St. Louis, and where there’s beer, there will be salty snacks like pretzels.
The best place to buy pretzels in St. Louis is Gus’ Pretzels located (appropriately) not far from the Anheuser-Busch/InBev factory. Like most family businesses (the pretzel shop has been in business since 1920), Gus’ has an interesting history. Gus Sr. married pretzel baker Frank Ramsperger’s daughter, Marcella, and soon realized there was potential in pretzels.
While the Bavarian-styled twisted pretzels are still made, my favorites are Gus' stick pretzels, which were developed to accommodate the vendors who sold them on street corners in bags. Nothing beats a bag of Gus’ Pretzels with a cold beer.
In Webster Groves, a St. Louis suburb, a small batch brewery and gastropub Perennial on Lockwood makes a wonderful Pretzel Monkey Bread that pairs well with one of the beers made on site, like Tumbling Dice (a pale English pub brew).
I think the trickiest part of pretzel making is in the twist, a shape developed by monks in 610 to resemble arms in prayer. But with Pretzel Monkey Bread, the dough is formed into balls and nestled in a cast iron skillet then brushed with butter and sprinkled with salt. It was much easier to make than I anticipated, and you have got to try this for Oktoberfest. I followed a recipe on King Arthur Baking website for pretzel sandwich buns to make the dough.
To make Pretzel Monkey Bread which yields 8 to 10 servings, you’ll need these ingredients:
(For the dough)
1¾ cups warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon salt
4 ½ cups unbleached bread flour
¼ cup milk powder
2 teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
(For the water bath)
2 quarts water
1 tablespoon salt
¼ cup baking soda
4 tablespoons pretzel salt
Pretzel Monkey Bread directions
Add yeast to 1¾ cup warm water and allow it to activate while you measure and mix dry ingredients.
To a large mixing bowl, combine 4 ½ cups flour, ¾ teaspoon salt, the milk powder, and butter. I stirred these ingredients together and transferred to my food processor, but if you have a standing mixer with a bread hook, that’s probably the preferred method.
Add the warm water with yeast and mix to create a sticky dough.
Transfer to a floured surface and knead the dough until it’s smooth and bounces back. Transfer to a greased bowl and cover. Allow it to rest for one hour or until doubled.
Punch the dough to deflate it and transfer to a floured working surface.
Divide dough into 10 pieces and shape into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a sheet lined with parchment and cover so they can rest 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare the water bath by bringing 2 quarts water, 1 tablespoon salt and ¼ cup baking soda to a boil. Don’t skip the water bath step as it creates that crunchy outside to your pretzel.
When the water just comes to a boil, turn down to medium and drop 3 dough balls in at a time and cook for 1 minute, turning them over once in the bath. With a slotted spoon, place the balls in a cast iron skillet that’s been lightly greased with butter.
Brush the tops with a bit of melted butter or milk to help with browning and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden. Allow skillet to cool about 15 minutes before serving.
A pretzel needs a great dip or two, and St. Louis Beer and Provel Cheese Dip fits the bill.
Mustard and pretzels are best friends, too, and ¼ cup stone ground mustard, ½ cup mayonnaise, and 3 tablespoons honey create another delicious dip for Pretzel Monkey Bread.
This appetizer is best when eaten within hours of being baked.
Salted pretzels turn hard really quick! Although I stored uneaten portions of Pretzel Monkey Bread in an air-tight container, by the next day, they were like rocks! The salt sucks the moisture out of the pretzel, rendering it inedible. So, you really can't make this recipe for one or two people.
Can I just make regular pretzels using this recipe?
Absolutely! Just shape the 10 pieces into ropes and twist. Follow the rest of recipe for the water bath and baking. Do not add salt if you want to freeze the pretzels. Thaw the pretzels on a parchment-lined sheet pan. To add salt for serving, moisten your index finger and follow the shape of the pretzel's twist and sprinkle with salt.
I’m still going to pop into Gus’s for the best pretzels in St. Louis, but Pretzel Monkey Bread is a great dish for your home-based Oktoberfest or game night. You got this, so give the recipe a try and let us know how it turned out in the comments.
Looking for more snack ideas for your October party plans?
About the blog
Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.