Valentine’s Day will just have to wait. I have footballs to make!
Beer is a must for the big game of course, and beer and pretzels just go together. Since filling these little football-shaped pretzels with cheese sounded good, I decided that filling them with ham and cheese sounded even better.The nice thing about this recipe is that it’s so flexible. Add hot sauce or onions, skip the ham, try different types of cheese. Make the filling your own!
Of course, the bombs can be made in nice little round shapes – but for the big game I wanted footballs. In my first batch there were about half that would be easily recognized as footballs, and half that were…well…deflated. (Dare I say that? Sorry, Patriots fans! The deflated ball jokes have been flying all week.) Cheese will ooze, and personally I love the crispy bits of baked cheese that stick to the bottom of the footballs. For the sake of appearance, however, I experimented. A lot.
I thought that maybe a longer boil would toughen the outside, keeping the cheese in as they baked. I seemed to have at least as many blow-outs, so my assumption was flawed. Because there was no “give” as the footballs baked, the cheese simply found a weak spot and broke through.
I tried a very short boil, with the theory that the footballs would remain more flexible, and give when pressured by the cheese. The cheese still blew out. Stiffer dough, softer dough, hotter bake temperature, lower bake temperature. Vent holes. I found that mozzarella is a little more explosive than cheddar, and using half of each helped a bit. I think I tried it all – at least everything I could think of.
The bottom line is this: CHEESE OOZE HAPPENS. Embrace it. Leave the crispy bits attached to the bombs…people will still love them.
Beer and brown sugar add a little extra flavor to the pretzel dough, and an egg wash adds a pretty sheen. This recipe makes about 64 small bombs. Remember, that’s going to be about 30 attractive footballs. The rest should be immediately eaten for quality control purposes (wink wink). The bombs can be wrapped in foil and popped in the freezer after they’ve baked and cooled; they reheat beautifully. Or make 32 larger two-bite-size bombs.
It would be ideal if you had a helper, because two people would make this process a lot easier. One can be forming footballs while the other is boiling and baking. I did it by myself, so it’s do-able, but if you can bribe or enlist someone, I recommend it!
The dough is so easy to make. It’s a nice, sturdy dough that can be manhandled without causing any problems. Here’s the recipe:
|Football Pretzel Bombs|| |
- 1 can (12 oz) beer
- 1 teaspoon white sugar
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 1 tablespoon firmly packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups bread flour
- 6 ounces grated cheddar cheese (about 1½ cups)
- 6 ounces grated mozzarella cheese (about 1½ cups)
- 1 ounce cream cheese, softened
- 1 5-ounce can cooked ham chunks, drained, OR ½ cup (or more to taste) finely chopped cooked ham
- ½- 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce
- 8 cups water
- ½ cup baking soda
- 1 egg whisked together with 1 teaspoon water (egg wash)
- Pour beer into a small pan and heat until very warm - about 110 degrees.
- In a large bowl (a standing mixer with a bread hook is best) combine the warm beer, white sugar, and yeast. Allow the mixture to sit 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly.
- Add softened butter, brown sugar, salt, and 3 cups of the bread flour. Mix well.
- Slowly add remaining flour, a little at a time, until the dough comes cleanly away from the side of the bowl and is not sticky to the touch. You are looking for a fairly stiff dough, but not dry. Dry dough is very hard to seal when you're making the footballs.
- Knead for 6 minutes by machine, or 8 minutes by hand on lightly floured surface.
- Shape dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl, turning several times to coat the dough. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 hour. WHILE THE DOUGH IS RISING:
- Cover two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
- Combine the cheese, ham, and hot sauce. Mix together very well. Go ahead and use your hands to knead it into a solid mass. Since your hands are already messy, save time later by rolling 64 balls of cheese mixture, about 1 teaspoon each. You may have a little left over. Save it for topping a casserole or for a grilled cheese sandwich!
- When dough has doubled heat oven to 400 F.
- Work with half of the dough at a time, leaving the other half covered. Separate dough into ½ ounce pieces (approximately 1 tablespoon). Roll into balls and flatten into rounds with the bottom of a heavy glass or a rolling pin.
- Place one cheese ball in the center of each piece of dough and bring the edges up over the cheese. Pinch the dough firmly. Really....pinch the heck out of it! Roll briskly but gently between your hands. If you see a crack, pinch it and roll again. Roll either side of the ball firmly to create pointed ends if you are making football shapes.
- Bring water and baking soda to a boil in a large tall saucepan and then lower the heat a little to get a gentle boil
- Drop 8-10 footballs into the boiling water at a time. Allow them to boil for 30-40 seconds. Remove with slotted spoon or spider, and place onto prepared cookie sheets.
- Using a razor blade (I used an X-Acto knife) or a very sharp paring knife, cut two short parallel lines in the top of each football, with a line in between. (Imagine a capital letter "I", laying on its side.) This will represent the laces. (If you want to get fancy, you can cut little laces too.) Be careful not to cut all the way through the dough or you are certain to have the cheese blow out the top! Note: If you are making round shapes instead of footballs, Cut a shallow "X" in each ball.
- Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.
- Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, or until a rich brown.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
Serve them with a honey mustard sauce or just eat them plain. You will be amazed at how fast these puppies disappear! And……GO HAWKS!