These are so yummy! They take a while to make, however, so don’t be thinking you will just whip up a batch while watching Dancing with the Stars. But they are sooooo worth it. I promise. And with a little here, a little there, you can make them in the afternoon and enjoy the little yummies with your family or girlfriends at night. I served mine with homemade tomato soup and it was an amazing combo. I always double the recipe, but I have seven people in my house. ❤
1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast (or instant yeast)
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped ham
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
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. In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.
Add 2 1/2 cups flour, salt, and milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Add the remaining flour as needed. (Or add all the ingredients to a stand mixer and mix with paddle attachment until well combined. Then switch to hook and knead for about a minute, adding flour as needed until dough pulls away from the sides). 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 oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap (I put mine in my unusually large Tupperware bowl and seal the lid). Allow to rise in a warm, draft free area until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface (an hour or two).
Mix ham and cheddar together until well combined. 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, pre-heat 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 of 8 to 10, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once. They should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon or spider 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. Serves 8 if you only eat 6. Serves 4 at my house.