Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites
1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115° F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115° F)
2 1/2 – 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ham, finely chopped
1/2 cup sharp Cheddar, finely shredded
6 cups water
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
Stir together the yeast, 1 tsp. brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tbsp. brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.
Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the 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 clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a draft free, warm room for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough and stretch into a 12-inch rope. Use the rolling pin or your hands to form a 12x4 inch rectangle. Gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheddar into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut into 12 1-inch 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. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
Cook 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. The cheese might ooze out, but that's okay.
Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt.
Serve pretzels warm or at room temperature.
After the last resting period.
Source: Pink Parsley who adapted from Gourmet, Oct. '09