I had been stalking this particular recipe on Pinterest for quite some time (source: penniesonaplatter.com). We had some people over a while back, so it was the perfect opportunity to finally make them! I had never made soft pretzels before, but I do have deliciously wonderful memories of them. Back in my poor, single years (as opposed to my current poor, married years), I was a waitron at Timberwolves games. Isn't that a funny word? Waitron? Anyway, before the madness began each night, we had the option to eat either a free hot dog or a free soft pretzel. I usually opted for the pretzel, along with a container of warm, gooey cheese for dipping. I never got tired of those pretzels.
I don't think I have bitten into a soft pretzel since my waitron days, which seems like a lifetime ago. So when I bit into these delicious little bites, my tastebuds did cartwheels! Reunited with the beloved soft pretzel!
In a small bowl, combine:
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
In a large bowl, combine:
2 1/2 cups flour
Warm milk mixture
1 package (1/4 oz.) instant dry yeast
Stir until a soft dough forms. Add more flour as needed (up to 1/2 cup). 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. Alow it to rise in a warm, draft-free area for about 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust a rolling pin with flour and roll each piece of dough into roughly a 12x4-inch rectangle. As you can see, my rectangles are not quite rectangles.
With the long sides facing you, place the following ingredients onto the bottom third of each piece of dough:
A quarter of 1/2 cup finely chopped ham
A quarter of 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Roll the dough as tightly as you, starting with the long edge holding the ham and cheese.
Cut each roll into 12 equal pieces.
Transfer the pieces to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let them rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add 4 teaspoons of baking soda to the boiling water and reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Boil the pretzels in batches, cooking for about 20 seconds each and turning once. I'll be honest, this process was a little bit stressful (hence, no photos), and I had a handful of casualties.
They should look slightly puffed when they are done. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until they are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.
Brush with 4 tablespoons of melted butter and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons of coarse kosher salt.
Serve warm! Enjoy!