January 2, 2011

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites

These are not as hard as they seem to make and they last for a day or two in an airtight container.

Complements: www.annies-eats.com

For the dough:
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup warm milk
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole grain spelt flour (or whole wheat)

For the filling:
1/2 cup small diced ham
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

To finish:
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon butter, melted (or Earth Balance spread)
coarse sea salt, for topping

To make the dough, combine the yeast, brown sugar, water, milk and 2 1/2 cups of flour in the bowl of a standing 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 (may take a bit more then 1 cup). Knead the dough for 8 minutes on low. 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.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Stretch or roll one piece of the dough into a 12 x 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 slightly greased baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining 3 portions of dough, and the remaining filling.

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. They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer them back to the baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Brush the warm pretzel bites with the melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.
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