Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites

I'll admit that I'm a little late to the party with these tasty treats. I've honestly had the ingredients bought for a month or better but was too nervous to try and make them. Something about using yeast and letting the dough rise was just beyond my capabilities (remember when I said I have a short attention span?). But the other day, when I was home alone (hubs is out of town) and we didn't have school (because we are 'cool' seniors and get days off to work on our thesis) I decided I would give them a try. I decided if they were a complete fail then I wouldn't have to fess up to making them ;)

But to my delight, they turned out perfectly! They were SO good! I love anything bite sized that I can dip, so these were perfect. All of a sudden, I was wishing there was someone I could share these with so they could understand my enjoyment...but sadly, I didn't tell anyone I was making them. Vicious cycle isn't it?

Oh well, now I get to share them with you. Please, please, if you are a coward like me, don't be scared to make these! They were quite easy with the most time consuming part being the boiling of the bites. I honestly feel like I checked something off my bucket list by using yeast (sad list if this is one of the items).

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites
Source: Pennies on a Platter

1 package active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 c warm water (110-115 degrees)
1 c warm milk (110-115 degrees)
2 1/2 to 3 c flour
1/2 c finely chopped ham
1/2 c shredded cheese of choice
6 c water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons coarse salt

Combine the yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes. (if using the instant yeast, skip this step and just add the flour). In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 c flour and milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.

Brush the inside of a large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft free area for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12x4- in rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has filling. Cut into 12 1-in pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of dough.

Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. (Again, if using instant yeast, you can skip this step.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Boil pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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