Tailgate food. Can anyone ever get enough? I know I can't.  I could eat appetizers every meal for the rest of my life and be perfectly happy. I would also be 400 lbs..but still happy. Something about bite-sized foods always gets me. I'll sit there and eat 10 mini pigs in a blanket without ever thinking I've had 3 full hotdogs worth. Whoops.

This weekend was the Duke-UNC football game. I've mentioned before how my brother and I are UNC fans (he's a 2009 grad), and the rest of my family is full of Duke fans. This year the game happened to fall on Thanksgiving weekend, and it was at Duke. This meant I was forced to tailgate with the enemy since I was home for break anyways. Truthfully, I didn't mind because I have been bookmarking tailgate recipes all year just dying for a chance to make them. It's not that I couldn't come to a UNC tailgate with a batch of mini hotdogs in hand...but it is.

So, when my mom told me we were having a big tailgate I immediately started listing off the items I planned to make. I ended up limiting it to buffalo chicken dip (since I have never made anything that receives as amazing of a reaction as this always does), caramelized onion dip and mini homemade pretzels stuffed with ham and cheese. We of course brought many other things as well, but those were my addition. I'll stop rambling now and get to this recipe because these were GREAT! Simple, delicious and awesome for a tailgate. We served them with honey mustard which was especially good. And on top of everything, they have yeast...still conquering my fear of yeast one recipe at a time. I see a great friendship in our future.

Oh, and UNC won. Go heels!

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites
Yield: 48 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˚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 (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. (Again, if using instant yeast you may choose to skip this step as it only requires one rise.) 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.


Ivan D said... @ November 30, 2010 at 2:15 PM

Uh, if ya have any left over you could send them my way. I will def. try these. Thanks!
BTW I hope you don't mind but I put a link to your site on my.
Can't wait for your next & told my daughter to check ya out!

Sarah said... @ November 30, 2010 at 7:15 PM

Of course I don't mind you posting my link on your site! That's great, thanks! And yes, you will definitely have to try these, they were a hit..chances are slim that I'll be able to hold out until the next tailgate to make them again!

briarrose said... @ December 1, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Wow, what a great snack food. These look irresistible. Wonderful recipe.

Patty said... @ December 2, 2010 at 6:13 PM

Whoa! These looks out-of-this world amazing! I most definitely am going to try this for our next football party! Yum! What a winner! They look gorgeous and no doubt taste delicious. Thanks for the inspiration!

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