Soft pretzels are delicious on their own, but they usually need two things: Salt and something to dip them in.
For many of us, that’s usually some kind of stadium cheese, but at Easy Tiger, it’s a soft, thick, spreadable cheese made with Cheddar and cream cheese and more than a splash of beer.
Beer cheese originated in Kentucky, Easy Tiger head doughpuncher David Norman says in his new book, "Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe's Most Beloved Breads" (Ten Speed Press, $35), which comes out this week, but it’s become one of the most popular items on the menu at the beer garden and bake shop that has two Austin locations.
Norman’s book focuses on the relationship between breads and the dishes they are usually paired with, and you can’t share the recipe for those soft pretzels, which he does in the book and at his monthly pretzel-making classes, without including the recipe for beer cheese.
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Chef Drew’s Easy Tiger Beer Cheese
At Easy Tiger, our own version of beer cheese took a different path to our menu than through a Munich biergarten. Chef Andrew Curren, the partner who spearheaded Easy Tiger’s culinary programs until 2018, first discovered beer cheese in Louisville. He had just landed back in the States after a stint cooking and eating in Vietnam, and he went with some college buddies to the Kentucky Derby, where the mix of Cheddar, cream cheese, beer and spices is a staple. Just how this delectable spread became ubiquitous in Central Kentucky is lost to history, but the resemblance to the Munich cheese spread Obatzda as well as to Welsh rabbit provides clues. From my own childhood, there was Win Schuler’s bar cheese from the well-known restaurant that has been in Marshall, Michigan, for more than a hundred years. We stopped there at least once on family trips to visit my mother’s folks, but even if we did not go through Marshall, we would come back from Michigan with enough crocks of that cheese to make it until the next summer. Serve this cheese with the Easy Tiger Pretzels and a Märzen-style beer, such as Brooklyn Lager.
— David Norman
1 cup lager beer (such as Brooklyn Lager)
1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pour the beer into a glass and let it sit until it loses its effervescence, about 15 minutes. Combine the Cheddar, cream cheese, onion, garlic, hot sauce, salt, cayenne, mustard, Worcestershire and black pepper in a food processor and pulse until slightly blended. With the processor running, slowly pour in the beer. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 1 week. Serve cold or let soften at room temperature briefly before serving. Serves 4 to 6.
— From "Bread on the Table: Recipes for Making and Enjoying Europe's Most Beloved Breads" by David Norman (Ten Speed Press, $35)