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ham and cheese pretzel bites

October 17, 2011

I am not a huge fan of football. Much to Chris and my dad’s dismay, and despite their best efforts, I can’t really seem to care about whether the Pats win or not. I know, I know, bad New Englander.


What I am a huge fan of is football food. An excuse to eat anything salty, meaty, and/or fried? Yes, please!


So when Chris and I were invited to watch the game at our friends’ apartment the other week so that Chris wouldn’t have to dangle the TV antenna out our window in a desperate attempt to get CBS, I decided to do the grown-up thing and bring something to devour before dinner. Because nothing says “grown up” like bits of pretzel stuffed with ham and cheese.


And man, are these things addictive! Buttery, salty pretzel and hints of ham and cheese. (I may or may not have overstuffed a few of them so that the filling fell out into the boiling water. Luckily, Chris eventually rescued me and pinched the remaining dough balls closed.) Yum. They’re much better freshly baked, but we found we could approximate the warm, melty goodness by popping them in the oven at 350 for a few minutes. I may not have cared who was winning, but at least I had these babies (and the pizza we made during halftime) to distract me.

Ham and Cheese Pretzel BItes
Ingredients:
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup small diced ham
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
kosher or pretzel salt, for topping

Directions:
1. To make the dough, combine the yeast, brown sugar, water, milk, and 2 1/2 cups of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until a dough has formed. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until a soft, elastic dough forms. Add the remaining flour 1-2 tablespoons at a time until the dough is tacky but not sticky.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size and bubbles on the surface, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Stretch or roll one piece of dough into a 12-by-4-inch rectangle. Sprinkle some of the diced ham and the shredded cheese over one third of the dough closest to an edge, lengthwise. Roll up tightly, filling edge first, so that the filling is tightly sealed inside. Slice the log into 12 pieces and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. [If it looks messy already, you can pinch the pieces closed, but don’t worry too much about losing filling–it’ll still taste appropriately hammy and cheesy!] Repeat with the remaining 3 portions of dough and the remaining filling.
4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the baking soda and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Boil the pretzels in batches, cooking for about 20 seconds and turning once. [I found the easiest way to turn them was to push on one edge of each bite with a spoon until they flipped.] They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer them back to the baking sheet.
5. Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Brush the warm pretzel bites with the melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Source: Annie’s Eats 

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