The Improv Cooking Challenge: Bread and Butter

Theme: Bread and Butter

My Recipe: Stuffed Breadstick Pretzels

stuffed breadstick pretzels

I’m so excited to be posting for the first time ever with The Improv Challenge!
In case you’ve never head of the Improv Challenge, it’s a monthly link up where cooks, bakers, and bloggers get together and pour their creative juices into concocting a recipe using two featured ingredients.
I’ve wanted to join a cooking challenge of some sorts for a while now because I’d love to meet more bloggers. I also want to push myself on the recipe development side of things.
This sounds like the perfect way to do just that!

stuffed breadstick pretzels

This month’s ingredients? Bread and Butter.

I wanted to get away from dinner rolls and homemade butter (although I have been dying to make homemade butter…), but for a theme like bread and butter, I knew my recipe was going to have to be comforting and homey.
I started out thinking of pretzels. Pretzels dipped in hot, melted cheese is definitely homey. It’s definitely comforting. But where was the butter? Somehow the butter in the bread just didn’t cut it for me. So I was dreaming of a lemon butter sauce, when my husband complained about the health issues in dipping bread into a giant bowl of butter.

stuffed breadstick pretzels 1 (1 of 1)

And so I knew it would have to be somewhere on or in the pretzel. I did these a first time and brushed butter on top of the pretzels to see how it would change the texture of the outside (which is oh so important to a pretzel). And that recipe wouldn’t have been able to be called pretzel anything. They were stuffed breadsticks (although they were praise-worthy, apparently since my husband made oohing and aahing sounds as he wolfed down a plate of them).

stuffed breadstick pretzels

The butter had to go in the pretzel. And I had actually added two tablespoons of butter to my first attempt to moisten the cilantro pesto chicken I had made the day before. So I decided the cilantro pesto I was making for the chicken for my second try would be half butter and half olive oil. I think the butter and the walnuts add a richer, nuttier flavor to the chicken, although you could certainly go with almonds if you don’t like walnuts.

stuffed breadstick pretzels
I also flirted with the idea of adding grated cheese to the insides of these pretzels, but ultimately decided against it. I feel like to get stringy cheese pretzels and the perfect dough to cheese ratio, you’d have to have more food science knowledge than I currently have, or to experiment way more than I had time for-you’d want to try different ratios and cheeses. And call me old-fashioned, but if I have a pretzel, I also want a bowl of cheese to dip that pretzel in. Just eating a pretzel is too blah. Why go through the trouble of shaping and boiling something that is just a glorified sandwich…an American empanada? Nope. I wanted my dipping cheese.
And so, we ended up with this. The absolute perfect accompaniment for hot soup on a cold day (a substitute for dipping sauce?), a fresh veggie salad come end of spring, or a fancy appetizer at a party.

stuffed breadstick pretzels
Notes: since I haven’t given you weight measurement for your meat, I suggest adding ½ cup pesto to the cubed chicken and then slowly adding the last ¼ cup as needed. I found ¾ cup exactly enough for me, but luckily you’ll have a little pesto left over, so if you need just slightly more, eyeball it. You don’t want the chicken to be drowning in it, just lightly coated so that it adds flavor to the chicken without making the dough a wet mess.

stuffed breadstick pretzels


The Improv Cooking Challenge: Bread and Butter
The pretzel recipe was adapted ever so slightly from Alton Brown's fantastic Soft Pretzel Recipe. A butter walnut cilantro pesto keeps the chicken nice and moist, and these pretzel breadsticks will go great with soups and salads or as a nice change to a sandwich for your weekday lunch!
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
  • 1) Cilantro Pesto Chicken:
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 ½ cups cubed chicken breast (small cubes), approximately 1 ½ large chicken breasts
  • Salt to taste
  • 2) Pretzels :
  • 1 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 ½ cups flour (set aside about ½ to incorporate when you turn onto table)
  • ½ stick butter (1/4 cup)
  • 10 cups of water
  • ⅔ cup baking soda
  • Egg white+1 tablespoon water for wash
  • Sea salt or kosher salt+cumin+cayenne pepper flakes for sprinkling
  • 3) Quick Cheesy Coconut Sauce:
  • 4-5 slices white American cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons coconut milk (depending on desired consistency)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  1. Pesto Chicken:
  2. Put everything except the chicken into a food processor and blend until it comes together in a thick paste. Pour ½ cup over chicken, stirring so that the sauce fully coats the chicken. Add another ¼ cup gradually, so until the chicken has a light coating but is not drowning in pesto. Reserve the rest of the sauce if you make this the day ahead, so that you can reheat slightly and moisten chicken if it has dried out a little.
  3. Pretzels:
  4. Add your dry ingredients to a mixing bowl, using only 3 ½ cups of flour to start with. In another bowl combine the butter and the water. Slowly add the water to the flour, stirring as it starts to come together. When there is no more dry flour, add another ½ cup of flour to the bowl and as the dough starts to gather into a sticky bowl, use at least half of the rest of the flour to cover a surface you can use to knead the dough. Flip the dough onto the surface and knead for 5-10 minutes. To avoid having the dough stick to your hands, lightly flour your knuckles, palms, and the surface of the dough. Use the remaining ¼ cup of flour for the kneading surface as needed.
  5. Once the dough is smooth and will bounce back if you lightly poke it, you may place it back in the same bowl you used to combine the ingredients. Cover and let rise at least 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
  6. Once risen, take the dough from the bowl, and divide it into equal pieces. To make small breadsticks, you can split the dough into 24 pieces. If you want larger sticks, only use 12.
  7. Using your pesto chicken mix, add 2 teaspoons for the small pretzels and 4 teaspoons for the large ones. Bring one edge over to the other side and pinch close, leaving a small lip. Roll the pretzel towards the lip to finish closing. The rolling will also help shape your pretzel breadstick.
  8. Set each pretzel breadstick onto a floured surface so that you can repeat this process until finished.
  9. About halfway through this process you can get the pot of water and baking soda ready by letting it come to a boil.
  10. Drop 2-4 pretzel breadsticks into the boiling water at a time and let them stay in the water for 45-60 seconds. Use spatulas or a metal flour sifter with a handle or a spoon you use when you fry things to lift them out and drain off the excess water. Place onto oiled baking sheets.
  11. Brush with egg wash and add sea salt or kosher salt, cumin, cayenne to taste. Alternatively, I think these would taste great if you used breadstick toppings like oregano, salt, and parmesan.
  12. Bake at 400° for approximately 12-16 minutes or until the color of…well, a pretzel!
  13. Quick Cheesy Coconut Sauce:
  14. For the cheese sauce, unwrap the cheese slices and place in a frying pan. Add the coconut milk and the mustard. Heat on low, stirring constantly until the cheese melts. Remove from heat immediately. Make this immediately before serving the pretzels or the sauce will harden. If this happens before you are finished eating your tasty treat, simply reheat with a splash of milk. Please note that this sauce in an approximation. I generally eyeball the ingredients and will add an extra slice of cheese if I’ve used too much milk or splash a little more milk in if I think it looks too thick. Total judgment call!


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    • sircserreb says

      Thanks! I can’t believe we are talking about Easter already-I’m still on New Year’s Resolutions! If doing this for Easter, I’d probably make the chicken a day or so before to save time on Easter. And if you’ve got extra hands in the kitchen you could even make these into pretzel bites instead of small breadsticks if for apps.

    • sircserreb says

      I still think a butter sauce was in order. I remember butter garlic sauce with stuffed crust pizza in my family, and thought that using green curry paste in butter would have been tasty…

    • sircserreb says

      Thanks! It would be better with the big flecks of salt, and apparently you can get sea salt in the North of China, which makes me think I could get it here, too, but until I can read Chinese a little better, I’ll pick my moments to ask for help wisely. I’ve also flirted with making my go to breadstick topping and dipping this in marinara!

    • sircserreb says

      Thanks, I successfully ate them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! To be fair, no cheese was involved when I nibbled at one for breakfast nor when I took it to my Chinese lesson for lunch;)

  1. Lesa @ Edesia's Notebook says

    Welcome to the Improv Challenge! You definitely knocked one out of the park your first month! This recipe is amazing!

    • sircserreb says

      That’s so nice of you to say! I love the idea of this challenge…I’ll head over to your blog and see what you’ve concocted. Spoiler alert: I’m thinking I need to get a steamer for next month’s challenge… 😉

    • sircserreb says

      Thanks! I saw yours, too…I love garlic bread with cheese! Spoiler alert: I’m thinking I may need to buy a steamer to make next month’s recipe…

  2. says

    What a delicious looking recipe! I may have to conquer my fear of yeast (after having dough flop once, I’ve been avoiding it!) and try them out! Yum!
    Thanks for sharing at Saturday Dishes- hope to see you back tonight!

    • sircserreb says

      Thanks:) Aw, don’t be afraid of bread…my advice is to try the same bread recipe a few times. Get to know the recipe and the dough and you’ll make it work, I’m sure of it!

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