1 package (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115˚F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115˚F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped ham (about 3 ounces)
1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1-2 Tablespoons coarse salt
In a large bowl, combine the yeast, 1 tsp. brown sugar & warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5-8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together 2 tbsp. brown sugar and warm milk until brown sugar is dissolved.
Once yeast is foamy, add 2 1/2 cups flour & the milk mixture to the yeast. Stir with wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Add remaining flour if dough is too sticky. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead a few times, forming a smooth ball. Alternatively, you can knead in a stand mixer with a dough hook briefly until dough is smooth.
Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil and place dough in bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise in a warm draft free area for 2 hours, until dough doubles in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
Meanwhile, cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Once dough has raised, lightly flour a surface for rolling the dough. Turn the dough out and divide into four equal pieces. Roll one section of the dough into a 12×4 inch rectangle. With the long side facing you, press 1/4 of the ham & cheese into the bottom third of the dough. Roll the dough up tightly as possibly, starting with the filling end. Cut the dough roll into 1 inch pieces and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 sections of dough.
Once all pieces are cut, let them rest uncovered at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium sized pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add in baking soda and reduce heat to a simmer. Add pretzels in batches and boil for 20 seconds each, turning once. Pretzels should be slightly puffed. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pretzels back to baking sheet.
Once all pretzels are boiled, place baking sheet in oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 15 minutes. Brush the warm pretzel bites with melted butter & sprinkle with salt.
If preparing these ahead of time, you can place the pretzel bites in a 200 degree oven and warm them up for about 10-15 minutes prior to serving. You can keep them in the warm oven until your guests arrive.
Serve with honey mustard or your favorite dipping sauce.
*Notes: These are super yummy! You can get creative with this recipe. You can make meatballs (cook first) and insert those into the pretzel bites, eggs, or just about anything you can think of.
I always line my baking sheets, non stick or not, with foil. These pretzel bites stuck to the foil. Make sure you use foil and spray the foil with a non stick spray!