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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Ham, Cheese & Broccoli Pretzel Pockets

I'm a teeeeny-tiny-leeetle-bit obsessed with soft pretzels at this moment in time.  Really.  I can't get enough.  I blame it on the bursts of life, or should I call them teasers, of crisp Autumn air.  And football.

It's all football season's fault.  Yeah, that's it.  Football season made me do it.

I've been crawling around Pinterest just to find more variations on what is basically the same thing.  The same insanely soft, delicious, addictive thing.  I've got plans people.  Big ones.
Oh sure, I started things off all traditional-like with some classic soft pretzels.  But don't forget that ridiculous Spicy Beer Cheese sauce that I had for dipping them in.  And I plan on making Pretzel Dogs for more than one game this season.  But I'll be switching up the dogs.  Brats one week.  Italian Sausage and Marinara another.  Heck, I may even try to encase a little chorizo one of these days.  Although, I'm thinking chorizo is a better option for my next go-round with these babies - the pretzel pocket.  I mean, can you imagine biting into a pretzel filled with that spicy red sausage and maybe some melty cheese of some sort - chihuahua, quesadilla, even mozzarella.

 Excuse me, I was distracting myself...

Let's go ahead and talk about these here pockets-o-pretzel.  They were not one of the things I found while searching Pinterest.  I was actually over at Girl versus Dough.  I was browsing her recipes since she is our #BakeYourOwnBread Featured Bread Blog this month.  Now, I had already bookmarked plenty of goodies from her site that I wanted to make, but when I saw the word pretzel, you could fill in the old cliché - yup, that was all she wrote.  Now Stephanie (the blogger behind Girl versus Dough) made these Ham and Cheddar Stuffed Pretzel Calzones.  I decided I wanted them to be "pockets" instead of calzones.  You know, sort of like Hot Pockets.  Stephanie roasted her broccoli.  I was far too lazy to do that, so I just steamed it quickly and seasoned it.  You could cook it any way you like.  I also made nine instead of eight.  All minor adaptations...and ultimately I'm guessing they probably tasted basically the same (amazing).
I also realized that since these are stuffed with cheese, that means that I can finally (been meaning to do it for months) join in the #TwelveLoaves Challenge this month; the theme is cheese.  Can a theme get much better?  I mean, come on.

So, soft pretzels lovers out there - make these.  Stat!  They're perfection in a pocket.  The combination of the ham with the sharp cheddar and the broccoli is so riduculously good that I have no words for it.  Other than those.  The ones I just said.  And the pretzel dough is a dream to work with.

Ham, Cheese, & Broccoli Pretzel Pockets

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: ~1½ hours (largely unattended)
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Keywords: bake bread entree snack broccoli cheese ham American

Ingredients (9 pretzel pockets)
    • 1½ c. lukewarm water (110-115° F)
    • 1 Tbs. sugar
    • 2¼ tsp. active dry yeast
    • 4½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
    • 2 tsp. salt
    • 1-1½ c. small broccoli florets, cooked & seasoned as you wish (from ~3 oz. raw)
    • ~8 oz. (2 c.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
    • ~4 oz. ham, thinly sliced or chopped (~1½ c.)
    to finish:
    • ~2½ qts. water
    • ⅔ c. baking soda
    • 1 egg yolk beaten
    • drizzle of water
    • coarse salt
    Making the dough:
    Combine lukewarm water, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Let sit until the yeast starts to look creamy, ~5 minutes. Add flour, salt, and melted butter and mix until combined, then turn speed up to medium and let knead until dough is just tacky and has cleaned the sides of the bowls, another 5 minutes or so.

    Form dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in size, ~1 hour.

    When there is about 15 minutes of rise-time remaining:
    Preheat oven to 400° F.

    Line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. I managed to fit all of mine on one sheet, since I only have one oven rack...but if you have two racks, you may as well spread 'em out.

    Bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the baking soda a little bit at a time (this keeps it from overflowing).

    Beat together the egg yolk and water for the egg wash. Set aside.

    Finishing the Pretzel Pockets:
    Once the oven is preheating and the water is coming to a boil, turn your dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. It will be beautiful, soft as a pillow, and basically a dream to work with. Just sayin'. I love a good pretzel dough (and this IS one).

    Using a bench scraper, divide your dough into 9 fairly equal portions (each will weigh ~4 ounces), and roll them into balls. Set to one side of your work surface.

    One at a time, flatten and roll each ball into a disc that is ~8-inches wide. Using about one-ninth of each ingredient, pile the cheese, ham, and seasoned broccoli into the center of the disc. Fold on side of the dough over to just cover the filling. Dip your finger into the egg wash and run it along the edge of the dough that has not been folded yet, then fold over the opposite edge. Fold the other two smaller edges over, as well. Pinch all seams together to seal (really pinch ' don't want to lose your filling in the water bath). Set aside and repeat with remaining dough and filling until you have nine "pretzel pockets".
    Using a slotted skimmer or flat, slotted spatula, gently lower one pocket at a time into the boiling baking soda bath. Let each one stay in the water for 30 seconds, flipping gently halfway through. Carefully lift out and let water drain through the slots in your spoon before setting onto prepared baking sheets. Dough will be slightly puffed and very slippery.

    Once all of your pretzels have taken their mandatory baking soda bath (don't skip's what gives you that pretzel taste and sheen) and are laid out on the baking trays, brush them lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.
    Slide trays into preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the pockets are a deep, golden brown. Let cool a little bit before eating, but I know you won't be able to resist for too long. They are great warm or at room temperature.

    I do not know if dividing your pockets amongst two trays would result in a reduced baking time, but it is possible. As I said, I only have one rack in my oven, so I adjusted to suit. If you're using two sheets, you may want to start checking after 15 minutes or so. Remember, you're looking for that deep, golden, you they will smell amazing and you may see a little cheese seeping out of the pockets here and there.

    I had two of these pockets left-over the day that I made them. Once completely cool, I sealed them in a zippered baggie and left them at room temperature overnight. Heated for 30 seconds in the microwave the next day, they were just as good as they were initially. It's up to you if you want to refrigerate them, but I figure I eat lots of bread with fillings and I never refrigerate, so why do so with these. They shouldn't last so long that they would "go bad". I mean, if they do, you're not doing something right. They are too hard to resist devouring as quickly as possible.

    adapted from Girl Versus Dough
    As if these weren't enough, you can bet you'll be seeing more soft pretzel-based recipes here over the course of Autumn.  And maybe Winter.  Depends on how long this obsession lasts.