Oktoberfest, German Beers & Pretzels

Cheddar Beer Dip

Long ago, I mentioned I planned to spend a few days in beer school. Now that school is over and Oktoberfest has just begun, I thought this would be a nice time to share a bit of what I learned. Every few days between today and October 7, I will share a particular beer and a recipe to match. Since this is Oktoberfest, let’s start with German beers.

Oktoberfest began as a celebration of the wedding of Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October12, 1810. I will drink a beer for nearly any occasion, but drinking a beer in tribute to love just makes it all the better, don’t you think? If my ongoing obsession with both Game of Thrones and Downton Abbey has taught me anything, it’s that they probably got married because one of them had a nice chunk of land the other one was after.

That aside, the kind royals hosted a festival complete with horse races for all of Bavaria to enjoy. Everyone seemed to like it so much, they added an agricultural festival and did it again the next year. And it just kept going to where we are today. The festival always runs for 16 days and ends the first Sunday in October. To learn more about present-day Oktoberfest, visit the official website.

Cheddar Beer Dip

An important component of the history of German beer is the beer purity law Reinheitsgebot. In 1516, Duke Wilhelm IV of Bavaria was not pleased with the poor quality beer consistently placed in front of him. Too many brewers used cheap grain as a substitute for quality grain. So he did what any man of power might do and passed a law restricting the ingredients used to make beer to malted barley, hops and water. (Yeast was added later.) The result was delicious beer.

Here are a few German beer types, along with my overly simplistic descriptions:

Altbier –  A brown ale that is conditioned for a while longer than normal so it doesn’t taste so fruity.

Bock – A strong lager. It is lagered (stored in a cold place) for a while longer than normal so it’s not so in-your-face with taste. In my extracurricular activities after school I learned the goat is the mascot of Bocks. Something about the beer was originally brewed only during the astrological phase of the Capricorn? I was born under the sign of the goat, so I guess I should like these beers.

Dopplebock – An an even stronger lager! And darker than a Bock. I suppose this makes the Dopplebock the strong, dark and handsome one in the family.

Eisbock – The brewing process includes freezing off a portion of the water, so in a sense, this beer is more concentrated than others.

Cheddar Beer Dip

Hefeweizen – Typically brewed with at least 50 percent wheat. The Hefe portion of the name indicates the yeast, and the Weizen means wheat. These beers look kinda cloudy.

Dunkelweizen – Also a wheat beer, but darker than a Hefeweizen.

Weizen-Bock – The pimped out version of the Dunkelweizen.

Schwarzbier – A black beer, though its color does not necessarily indicate its heaviness. These beers are actually quite light and flavorful.

Though I have done my best to provide accurate information, please note I continue to have a very simplistic understanding of the world of beer.

Speaking of World of Beer, Preston at Charlotte’s South End location graciously put the summer beer school program on for eight consecutive Mondays. Any errors, omissions or out-right butcherings of the information he provided and I have re-shared are most definitely my own.

Cheddar Beer Dip

Let’s move on to the food. Nothing says German food like a really nice pretzel! More accurately, nothing says “German food I can actually make” like a nice soft pretzel.You many recall I made soft pretzels last winter, but these are the with-beer versions. I also made a cheddar beer dip for those of you who are like me and need something to go along with your soft pretzels.

I used local Olde Mecklenburg Brewery’s OMB Copper for both the pretzels and the dip. This beer has quite a few fans across Charlotte. I have heard “OMB’s Copper is my favorite” proclaimed in settings that range from the dinner table to yoga class. I myself do not care for it. It’s one of those things I really want to like because I think I should, but when it comes down to it, I simply do not. This characteristic actually makes it excellent for cooking purposes because it doesn’t pain me to pour it into something I’m going to eat instead of wanting to pour it down my throat.

As I was checking to make sure pretzels do indeed have origins in Germany, I learned a French or Italian monk is actually given credit for inventing the pretzel. But since German immigrants (today known as the Pennsylvania Dutch) introduced soft pretzels to America, I though this was an acceptable recipe to kick off Oktoberfest. For a different twist, bake the pretzel dough into small rounds to use as sandwich buns or large rounds to use as bowls. Fill them with cheddar beer soup, or simply wait until my next Oktoberfest post when I provide another beer-meets-soup recipe and discuss monks in much more detail. Prost!

Cheddar Beer Dip

Soft Beer Pretzels with Cheddar Beer Dip
Serves: 12
  • For the Pretzels
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 1, ¼ ounce package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ teaspoon salt plus additional for sprinkling
  • 1 to 1¼ cups brown ale, room temperature
  • 3¾ to 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • For the Dip
  • 1½ cups beer
  • 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Place warm water and yeast in a large bowl and allow to stand for five minutes.
  2. Add the sugar, olive oil, salt beer and 3¾ cups of flour and stir until dough is soft. Continue to add flour or beer as needed until dough comes together.
  3. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 6-8 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
  4. Place the dough in lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic or a clean towel. Allow to rise for one hour. The dough should double in size.
  5. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 pieces.
  6. Roll each piece into a rope, about 20 inches long and twist into a pretzel shape.
  7. While you shape the pretzels, bring the water and the baking soda to a boil.
  8. Dip the shaped pretzels into the boiling solution for a few seconds, then place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  9. Cover the pretzels and allow to rise another 15 minutes.
  10. Brush their tops with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with salt.
  11. Bake at 425 degrees until lightly golden brown, about 15 minutes.
  12. To make the dip, pour the beer into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
  13. Add the cheese and stir until melted.
  14. Reduce the heat to medium low and thicken with corn starch.
  15. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Feel free to use a stand mixer and the dough hook to knead the pretzel dough. The pretzels will keep in an air tight plastic container for several days. I ended up using 3¾ cups of flour and 1 cup plus three tablespoons of beer to get the dough the consistency I desired.

Caramel Apple Pudding

Caramel Apple Pudding

Today was the loveliest of Mondays. A light rain fell most of the day. As I am lucky enough to work at a desk near an open window, I spent the day typing to the sound of rain drops falling softly against the trees.

Who am I kidding? Rainy days and Mondays tend to have enough negatives going for them on their own. Combine them, and it is the ultimate no-win situation. And now that we are past the mid-point of September, three weeks into college football, and have apples showing up at the farmer’s market, I am forced to let summer go.

When the seasons change from winter to spring, most of us probably do a lot of spring cleaning. I tend to do a lot of fall cleaning as well. Finally acknowledging the rapid approach of autumn, my cleaning efforts this past weekend led me to a diary I kept while in college.

I imagine I got into the habit of writing a diary for two reasons: 1) I like to write and 2) I grew up watching my grandfather  keep a daily  journal. Every year for Christmas, he and Grandma would give me a blank journal. And every year I would think, “Well, I guess I better write something in this.” So I did.

Caramel Apple Pudding


Though I do not keep a diary anymore, I am grateful I came across the thoughts I kept a decade ago. It gave me insight into the things I did not realize I still refuse to let go. It reminded me of how far I have come, and how much farther I hope to go. It made me feel good to know that I could once stay awake past 10 p.m.

I will spare you all the sordid details, but these were a few of my favorite things I once thought were terribly important:

July 11, 2002, 11:14 p.m. A nice thing that happened today was that Sister Nadine gave me three sticks of gum!

July 24, 2002 10:08 p.m. I am writing now because I am eating popcorn and feel I should do something productive at the same time.

November 19, 2002 10:05 p.m. So it’s Michigan week, woo hoo! We are all too excited.

Caramel Apple Pudding


Undated entry. I had a six-year-old tell me he did not want to get married because he did not want to change stinky diapers. When I told him that he did not necessarily have to change diapers if he got married, he looked at me with his giant blue eyes, and in an incredulous whisper asked, “Really?”

I had forgotten about Sister Nadine, but I was glad to remember her. I still like gum, popcorn, and feeling productive. I imagine I liked dessert then as much as I do now, and speaking of, this caramel apple pudding is a good one.

The dessert requires a bit of time to chill between multiple steps and before fully enjoying when assembled, but overall, it is quite easy to pull together. It has the light feel of a summer dessert, but the crisp caramel apples are a perfect taste to transition to fall. Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Pudding
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 2 cups crushed gingersnaps
  • ⅓ cup butter, melted
  • 1, 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3-1/4 cups milk, divided
  • 1, 8 ounce carton whipped topping (like Cool Whip), divided
  • 2, 3.4 ounce packages instant butterscotch pudding mix
  • ½ cup caramel sauce, divided
  • 2 medium apples, chopped
  • ⅓ cup roasted peanuts or walnuts, chopped
  1. Stir together the crushed gingersnaps and butter until blended.
  2. Press the mixture onto the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 baking dish. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or more.
  3. While the crust chills, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and ¼ cup of the milk until smooth.
  4. Fold in one cup of the whipped topping, then spread the mixture over the chilled crust.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining three cups milk and the pudding mixes together for two minutes.
  6. Allow to stand for two minutes after whisking or until soft-set.
  7. Stir ¼ cup of the caramel sauce into the pudding mixture, then spoon the mixture over the cream cheese layer.
  8. Cover and refrigerate an additional 15 minutes, then spread the remaining whipped topping on top over the layers.
  9. Cover again and refrigerate for four hours until the filling is firm.
  10. Before serving, top with chopped apples, nuts, and the remaining caramel sauce.
Consider tossing the chopped apples in a bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning prematurely.

I assembled the dessert a full day ahead of enjoying, and the gingersnap crust did not turn soggy.

Coffee and Donut Cookies

Coffee and Donut Cookies

I thought few things could go together as well as coffee and donuts. Then I baked them in a cookie.

I do not recall exactly when my love affair with donuts began. All I know is I love donuts in nearly every form. From classic sugared to traditional glazed, jelly-filled or stuffed with pastry-cream, coated in frosting or adorned with sprinkles. I love them all.

Except for the plain ones. I’m with this girl when it comes to plain donuts.

Coffee and Donut Cookies

Despite my love, I eat a donut maybe once a month. Unlike donuts, I begin almost every morning with another love, a cup of coffee. Hence, when I came across a cookie recipe that combined the two, I was sold.

The recipe calls for espresso powder for the coffee flavor. I happen to be partial to Savory Spice Shop’s Baker’s Brew Coffee Spice. It combines coffee with cocoa, cinnamon,  nutmeg, cardamom, allspice, mace and ginger. I am beginning to love that spice mixture for baked goods almost as much as I love donuts.  Enjoy!

If you stop eating donuts, you will live three years longer. It’s just 3 more years that you want a donut. – Lewis Black

Coffee and Donut Cookies

Coffee Donut Cookies
Serves: 24
  • For the Cookies
  • 2¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ sticks butter
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1¼ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso power or coffee baking spice
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ tablespoons corn syrup
  • 6 ounces donuts or donut holes, cut into small pieces
  • For the Glaze
  • 1¼ cups confectioners' sugar
  • ¼ cup strongly brewed coffee
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
  2. Cream together the butter, the sugars, and the espresso powder or coffee spice until light and fluffy.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat together the eggs and the vanilla extract. Slowly add this mixture to the creamed butter and sugar mixture.
  4. Add the corn syrup to the mixing bowl.
  5. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  6. Use a large spoon or spatula to gently fold in the pieces of donut.
  7. Place the cookies by rounded tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  9. When cool, glaze with a mixture of confectioners' sugar and strongly brewed coffee.
  10. To make the glaze, sift the confectioners' sugar in a bowl to remove lumps, then stir in the coffee. Pour a spoonful of glaze over each cookie.
I do not have a kitchen scale, so I used 3 glazed donuts as approximate six ounces of donuts/donut holes.