Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites

I think I have a new favorite party food.  Seriously, these are amazing.  As usual, my husband was my taste-tester, and his review was, “Um, yeah – I could eat like, 500 of those.”  And I have to agree.  If I wasn’t saving them to serve at my brother’s graduation party, we might have polished off the whole tray.  I just made them again to serve at our family 4th of July bash, and they went VERY quickly.  They taste like the best soft-pretzel you’ve ever had, complete with oozy cheese, salty ham and coated with butter – and then dipped in a tangy, sweet honey-mustard.  I’m sure they’re low in calories.  Really. 

This sounds like a complicated recipe, but really it isn’t.  It’s a pretty basic yeast-dough.  I actually made the dough in my stand mixer using the dough hook attachment which deviated from the original recipe, but it worked like a charm.  The dough was fairly sticky but once I sprinkled my rolling pin, hands and surface with flour, I had no problems with it at all.  My dough also rose much faster than the allotted 2 hours, mine was doubled in size at the 45-minute mark.

The hardest part about it all (for me), was boiling the dough…not that it was difficult but that whole process is time-sensitive so it kept me on my toes for a good 10 minutes.  You might lose some cheese in the boiling process, but not enough to worry about – some of the cheese will ooze out while baking, too.  The second time I made them I sprinkled the cheese with a little flour before rolling them up, and it really seemed to keep the cheese in place so I’ll definitely do it that way from now on. 

If you want to make these ahead of time, store them in the freezer.  Let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then reheat in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes or until warm.    This recipe made about 45 pretzel bites. 


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Pretzel Ingredients:
1 package active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4c up warm water
1 cup warm milk
2 and 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped deli ham (I used thinly sliced Virginia Ham)
1 block grated monterey jack cheese (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 to 2 Tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse salt (I used Kosher Salt)

Stir together yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour and milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with dough hook until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 400ºF with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two 4-sided sheet pans with parchment paper or silpat mat.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands with flour, then gently roll and stretch 1 piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you, then roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge.  (Just like you would roll a cinnamon roll or jelly-roll.) Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to a sheet pan. Make 3 more ropes with remaining dough, ham, and cheese and cut into pieces, transferring to sheet pans. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).
Bring water (6 cups) to a boil in a 4- to 5-qt saucepan. Reduce heat and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to sheet pans.   (I would suggest boiling no more than 4-5 at a time.)
Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes (cheese may ooze slightly).
Brush warm pretzel bites with butter and sprinkle with pretzel salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with honey mustard for dipping.
Honey Mustard Ingredients:
1/4 Cup Mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons Honey
1 Tablespoon Prepared Mustard
1/2 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and stir until smooth. 
Pretzel recipe adapted from Gourmet, with help from Pink Parsley & The Comfort of Cooking

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