Country Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard

My husband’s fantasy football season is over. My home team Titans didn’t make it into the postseason. My father-in-law’s beloved Packers exited in week 1 of the playoffs. Three reasons why my attention for football can now be fully directed where it really belongs – to food for the Super Bowl!

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Some watch the Super Bowl for the actual game. Some for the commercials. Some for the half-time entertainment. Some to see how much money they’ve won (or lost). But the spread I care more about is the one on my table.

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You can safely bet that these will win the coveted MVP award for the Most Valuable Pretzels. Filled with salty country ham and oozing cheddar cheese, these are truly super bites for the Super Bowl.

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Country Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites with Honey Mustard

adapted from Chef Edward Lee in Gourmet, October 2009

makes 4 dozen

  • 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)
  • 1 cup warm milk (110-115°F)
  • 2½-3 cups (12-15 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1 2/3 cup (8 ounces) finely chopped country ham, divided*
  • 1½ cup (6 ounces) grated sharp Cheddar, divided
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • coarse salt (kosher or pretzel) for sprinkling

*Can’t find any country ham locally? Try Newsom’s or Benton’s.

Stir together yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes. (This is called proofing the yeast. If it doesn’t foam, the yeast is dead, and you’ll need to start over with new yeast.) In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2½ cups flour and milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms, adding up to ½ cup additional flour, a little at a time, if needed to make it less sticky.

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Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. 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.

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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” long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you, then roll out to a roughly 12×4” rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press ¼ of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a ½” border along bottom edge.

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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 lined with a Silpat or parchment paper.

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Make 3 more ropes with remaining dough, ham, and cheese and cut into pieces, transferring to prepared sheet pans. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Dough will rise slightly.

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While pretzel bites are resting, preheat oven to 400°F with rack in upper and lower thirds.

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large 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 prepared sheet pans.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together mustard and honey. Taste and adjust to your liking.

Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Serve warm or at room temperature with honey mustard for dipping.

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Make Ahead Notes:
Honey mustard can be made 1 day ahead and chilled.
Pretzels can be made 2 weeks ahead and frozen (once cooled). Thaw 30 minutes, then reheat in a 400°F oven about 10 minutes.

Variation:
Add finely chopped seeded fresh jalapenos to the honey mustard for an extra kick

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