Stop drooling. Well, stop just long enough to read, print the recipe, and drool over your own. I’ve been wanting to make pretzels for a while now and all I needed was a teensy weensy shove – or maybe just a little nudge would have done. Either way, here we are.
Maybe you’ve never really thought about this before, but ‘pretzel’ is really the only word I can think of that rhymes with ‘Wetzel’ (my last name…thanks to hubby – my old one was much easier to spell and rhymed with things like ‘fall’, ‘mall’, ‘ball’, and so on). The sad fact of the matter is that I actually have to say something along those lines often when spelling my last name for some idiot on the phone. “Wetzel – like pretzel”. Good times.
And sadly enough, we aren’t related to the lucky owners of the real deal Wetzel’s Pretzels. It’d be so cool if we were though.
Although Auntie Anne’s is much better, if you ask me. I do fancy a greasy, jalapeno-studded pretzel every now and then, particularly when shopping at the Woodfield Shopping Center, which I don’t do often. Chris, on the other hand tends to grab a pretzel anytime he sees anything resembling a pretzel vendor – Auntie Anne’s or not. And yes, he prefers those over Wetzel’s too, if you can believe it. He really wants to like theirs better, but it’s utterly impossible.
He even gets the pretzels at the Cubs games or at concerts – the nasty, über salty, room temperature (although generally downright cold) blobs of dough that in my opinion can barely be eaten even when doused in hot melted nacho cheese. I’d honestly rather eat the nacho cheese with my fingers rather than dip those chewy nubbins of briny stiff dough into otherwise perfectly good over-processed cheese.
That being said, I knew he’d practically swoon over homemade pretzels. And although I’ve meant to find a good recipe for them, I was relieved of that duty when Gourmet magazine’s penultimate edition (sniff, sniff) graciously provided me with a recipe for ‘mini pretzels’. I don’t know about you, but in my mind the only thing better than regular-sized pretzels is lots of mini-pretzels – especially if they’re stuffed with ham & cheese! Don’t they look strangely familiar?
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. In Chris’ quest to knock out another graduate degree with about ten “sub-degrees”, he can sometimes have a rough week or two, and these last couple really had him in a tizzy. And when he’s in a tizzy, I get to cook. I figured I’d really do it up and make an appetizer, which I only do when we have company. Well, sometimes I’ll make things that can be either appetizers or dinner, and sometimes I’ll make salads, if that counts. But in general, I don’t make dishes specifically meant to be an appetizer.
After scarfing down a handful of these here pretzel bites, I’m beginning to think I might be missing out. Good thing I tucked a few of them into the freezer for safekeeping.
But you – you gotta make your own. You know you wanna.
Ham & Cheddar Pretzel Bites w/ Jalapeno Mustard
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2009; makes 4 dozen bites
while these are fine as-is, do not hesitate to use other ‘mix-ins’. bacon would work well as a ham substitute, and there are a list of cheeses to try. i took the liberty of adding more cheese and ham below as i had to chop more halfway through filling . like jalapenos? these would be great with a little diced jalapeno inside. i bet they’d even be good with a little nutella or chocolate if you’re wanting something more along the lines of dessert.
1.5 t active dry yeast
2 T plus 1 t light brown sugar, divided
1/4 c warm water
1 c warm milk
2 1/2 – 3 c ap flour
1/2 – 1 c country ham
1/2 – 2/3 c sharp cheddar cheese
4 t baking soda
1/2 c Dijon mustard
2 T finely chopped jalapeno (~1 average-size)
1 T honey
1/2 stick melted, unsalted butter (for brushing)
1-2 T coarse salt or pretzel salt
- stir together yeast, 1 t brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy (8 minutes or so; no foam = bad yeast).
- in a separate bowl, stir remaining brown sugar and warm milk until sugar is dissolved
- add 2 1/2 c flour and milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 c more flour if necessary. turn onto lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. transfer to clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. let rise in draft-free place, room temp, for about 2 hours
- turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal portions. lightly dust your hands with flour and gently roll and stretch 1 piece into a 12-inch long rope. flatten and roll (with floured pin) into an approximately 12×4 inch rectangle. press 1/4 of cheese and ham into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border at bottom. stretch bottom up and over filling and roll tightly. cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to sheet pan. repeat 3 more times. let rest at room temp for 30 minutes
- preheat oven to 400 F. line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silpat and bring a large pot of water to boil
- once water is boiling, reduce heat and add baking soda, stirring to dissolve. cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning over once, about 20 seconds. bites will slightly puff up. transfer with slotted spoon to baking sheets
- bake until puffed and golden, about 15 minutes. that cheese will be oozing and looking yummy
- meanwhile, stir together mustard, honey, and jalapeno
- brush just-baked bites with melted butter and sprinkle with salt
*if desired, you can freeze these little suckers, once cooled. thaw them for ~30 minutes and bake for about 10 to reheat