Saturday, April 14, 2012

Ham and Brie Pretzel Rolls

Some of the best recipes happen on accident. Well, maybe not accident, maybe improv.  You are in the kitchen, minding your own business, when you have an idea. A great idea. Or, maybe, you were looking in the fridge. That's what happened to me. I was looking at the wheel of brie I had purchased for Easter dinner. I had forgotten all about it.
I didn't want to waste it, but I didn't want to eat the whole thing myself. It has become a family tradition. My brothers always ask for 'that cheese thing...with the fruit', my sister and my husband become frenzied (ok, maybe that's an exaggeration) when I say we are having what we call 'baked brie'. It is really brie en croute, trimmed of its dusty coat and wrapped in a buttery, flakey pie crust.
But not this year. I bought a pound of it and forgot about it until it was too late to do anything about it.
I stood, staring in the fridge, looking at leftover ham, then back at the brie. Brie, then ham. Ham, then brie. Finally, I decided I should make this new pretzel roll recipe I had been trying out lately, and stuff it with ham and brie.
I have a bit of an obsession with ham and cheese, if you haven't noticed. I adore ham and cheese croissants, and I already have my ode to ham buns over here. I couldn't see how I could go wrong with this one, though. It would use up leftovers, and I could just freeze the rolls until later. I decided to do it.
After the dough was ready I cut up the brie into equal parts (I did triple the recipe I am giving below) and chopped up the ham. I love the way brie looks. It just sits there, so smooth, almost the texture of butter. I wanted to eat it right then, but I knew something great was waiting ;). Midway through the process, I realized I wasn't going to have enough ham, so I decided to throw in some apples. Pretty tasty. The apples need a bit of brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice, if they are by themselves, but with the ham and brie-amazing.

Ham and Brie Pretzel Rolls

1 cup milk
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 1/4 cups flour plus more for kneading
2 tablespoons unsalted butter plus more for greasing
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup finely chopped ham
5 oz brie, cut into 8 pieces

 Warm the milk until it's about 110 degrees; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes; stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour. Dice 2 tablespoons butter and soften; stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large baking sheet. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. (If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes.) Divide the dough into 8 pieces.
Flatten dough with your hand and place the brie in the center. Top with about 1/8 cup of chopped ham. Seal the edges and turn under, folding and twisting as you do. If you don't get a good tight seam, your brie will spill out. Place the seam on the bottom.
At this point, you can freeze them (write the instructions on the freezer bag), refrigerate them until the next morning, or wait until they rise (another 30 minutes or so) and bake.
Preheat the oven to 450, while you are waiting for them to rise. Bake for 18-22 minutes.
Another idea: add finely chopped apples, or substitute the ham for apples and add some brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice.

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