As soon as I read the tantalizing description of these bites in the “Gourmet” I rushed into the kitchen to make them. And I am glad I did!
The recipe is adapted from Edward Lee
Makes 4 dozen bites
- 1 1/2
tbsptsp active dry yeast (Thank you, Sara, for pointing it out and my apologies for the typo)
- 2 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
- 1/4 cup warm water (110F)
- 1 cup warm milk (110F)
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 oz finely chopped country ham, divided
- 2 ½ oz finely chopped sharp Cheddar, divided
- 6 cups water
- 4 teaspoons baking soda
- About ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 to 2 tbsp pretzel salt or coarse salt (fleur de sel is great)
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp finely chopped seeded fresh jalapeños
- 2 tbsp mild honey
Stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes. (If the mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) In a separate bowl, stir the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into the warm milk until dissolved.
Add the milk mixture and 2 ½ cups flour to the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on the surface, about 1 ½-2 hours.
Center an oven rack and preheat the oven to 400F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Turn out the 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-inch-long rope. Flatten the dough and arrange so a long side is the nearest you, then roll out to a roughly 12- by 4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of the ham and cheese into lower third of the rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along the bottom edge. Stretch the bottom edge of dough up over the filling and press tightly to seal, and then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut the rope into 12 pieces and transfer to the prepared sheet pan. Make 3 more ropes with the remaining dough, ham, and cheese and cut into pieces, transferring them to the sheet pans. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (the dough will rise slightly).
Bring the water (6 cups) to a boil in a 4-to 5-quart saucepan. Reduce the heat and stir in the baking soda. Cook the pretzel bites in batches in the gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to the sheet pans. Brush with some of the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt and bake in batches until puffed and golden-brown, about 15-17 minutes (the cheese may ooze slightly).
Meanwhile, stir together the mustard, jalapeños, and honey. It also can be done up to a day in advance.
As soon as the pretzels are removed from the oven, brush them again lightly with the remaining olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature with jalapeño mustard for dipping.