Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pretzel Bites

With all the sweet bakery items on this blog to date, I figured it was time to do something savory.  These pretzel bites are salty and packed with ham and cheese.  Unlike the big pretzels, these do not turn chewy with time but remain soft on the inside if stored properly.  They are best enjoyed warm.  If you are making these for a crowd, you might consider doubling the recipe.  A football game will last a lot longer than the bites will, they are very addictive.  This recipe makes 48 one inch bites.  There are several recipes out on the net with some different boiling and coating methods, but I choose this one due to its simplicity.

Pretzel Bites
adapted from Pennies on a Platter blog
1-2 tbs coarse salt
4 tbs melted butter 
4 tsp baking soda
6 cups water
3/4 cup shredded cheese
3/4 cup chopped ham (I used already sliced deli meat & cut up smaller)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 cup warm milk
1/4 cup warm water
2 tbs and 1 tsp packed brown sugar
1 pkg of active dry yeast (if using fast rise yeast, see **)
olive oil (for greasing bowl for rising)

Start by putting 1 tsp brown sugar, yeast and warm water in a large bowl and mix together.  Sprinkle yeast on top and set aside for about 5 minutes to foam up.  **Fast rise does not require this wait time.  In another smaller bowl, combine remaining brown sugar (2 tbs) and warm milk until sugar is dissolved.  Take a wooden spoon and mix 2 1/2 cups of flour in with the yeast mixture.  Then add in warm milk ingredients.  Continue to mix in the additional flour as needed until you have the consistency of a soft dough.

Place dough on a floured surface and knead a few times.  Then take olive oil and brush on the inside of a bowl.  Form the dough into a ball and place in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Put in a warm (draft free) place to rise for about 2 hours.  During the rising time, mix the shredded cheese with the ham in a small bowl.  Also, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

After 2 hours of rising time, your dough should be double in size and have a few bubbles on the surface.  I always let dough rise in my oven.  I turn on the oven and once it reaches 100 degrees I turn it off and then place the rising bowl inside.

Once dough has risen properly, take out and divide into 4 equal sections.  Take one section and using a floured rolling pin, roll dough into a 12X4 inch rectangle.  On one of the long sides of the dough, measuring about 1 inch above the edge, place a 12 inch row of the ham and cheese mixture on the dough, pressing lightly.  Starting with the ham and cheese edge, roll dough up tightly into a small long log.  Cut the log into 12 one inch pieces and place pieces on the parchment lined baking sheets.  Repeat this process with the additional sections of dough.

Let dough rise at room temperature uncovered for about 30 minutes.**Fast rise yeast does not require this rising time. Turn on oven to preheat to 400 degrees.

In the meantime, bring 6 cups of water to a full boil.  Reduce to simmer and sprinkle in all baking soda.  Drop in pretzel pieces in batches and boil for about 20 seconds on each side.  Scoop out pieces with a slotted spoon, draining off as much water as possible, and place on baking sheet.

Place sheet in oven and bake until pieces are golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter and then sprinkle on coarse salt.  Serve warm with ranch or mustard for dipping. 

With a twist: you might try using some chopped veggies instead of the meat.  For something more spicy, opt for jalapenos.  However, make sure the vegetable pieces are dry after chopping. Mushrooms, since they give off so much water when cooking, may not be appropriate for these.