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Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites POSTED IN APPETIZERS, FAMILY FAVORITES For New Year’s Eve, I wanted to make an easy appetizer that was at least a little impressive.  These pretzel bites were perfect, except that I poorly planned my timing so that I was making them as our guests arrived.  Little did I anticipate that our guests were going to finish making some of their dishes in my kitchen, too, so I was a bit distracted on making these. So distracted that they turned out with an unappetizing appearance.  Fortunately, they still tasted great!  A few days later, we were invited to our friends’ to watch the UFC fight, so I made another batch of these to bring with us.  This time I didn’t have to hurry to free up my kitchen, so their appearance was much more appealing! Contrary to what it seems, it doesn’t take much effort to make these.  Just whip up the dough, let it rise for 2 hours, shape the pretzels, let rise again for 30 minutes, then boil and bake! If you’re anything like me, you’ll have the itching to pinch the sides of the rolls shut, but don’t.  Some of the ham and cheese might ooze out, but that’s fine.  They puff right up in the oven, resulting in the perfect soft pretzel texture.  Served with your favorite mustard dip, these buttery, salty bites will have you asking for more! Print Ham & Cheese Pretzel Bites Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes Cook Time: 15 minutes Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes Yield: 8 servings Serving Size: 6 bites 1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (or instant yeast) 2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F) 1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F) 2 1/2 to 3 cups flour 1/2 cup finely chopped ham (about 3 ounces) 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used cheddar) 6 cups water 4 teaspoons baking soda 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1-2 Tablespoons coarse salt Combine the yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl. Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes. (If using the instant yeast, you can skip this step and just add it to the flour.) In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved. Add 2 1/2 cups flour and 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 large clean bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft free area for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour. Roll one of the four sections into a 12×4-inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheese into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible, starting with the end that has the filling. Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining 3 portions of the dough. Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400?F. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Boil 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. Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.Jennifer Hames

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