Snacking on hot dogs, pretzels

Hot dogs are synonymous with so many traditional “American” activities like baseball or barbecues and Fourth of July.

While getting together with friends to enjoy a San Jose Sharks game or root on the World Champion San Francisco Giants from home, it only seems natural that hot dogs would be part of the celebration. Without planning, you’ll be in the kitchen or watching the grill rather than enjoying the game with your friends and family. That’s where pretzel hotdog bites come in.

Many stories come forward when trying to find the origins of the salty bread treat known as a pretzel.
According to The History of Science and Technology, by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, in 610 AD “…an Italian monk invents pretzels as a reward to children who learn their prayers.” Called little rewards, or pretiola, there is no one source to back up this story. Others believe they came from a monastery in Southern France. A Greek ring bread could have been the inspiration for pretzel’s looped design. Regardless of where it started, everyone can agree that the bread is a delicious treat often enjoyed with mustard – just like the hotdog with which we’ll be pairing it.
Maybe you should offer a variety of mustards from spicy to honey and traditional. Remember, you can use any kind of pre-cooked sausage instead of the hotdog. Some of the prep work takes time. So plan accordingly. This recipe makes a lot! You can cut it in half, or freeze extras so you’re prepared for next time. If you have leftover dough, use it to make pretzels. Try sprinkling them with cinnamon and sugar for a sweet treat.

Ingredients:
Dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
5 cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting

Pickled mustard seeds:
1 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. salt
1/3 cup whole yellow mustard seeds

To finish:
Vegetable oil spray
6 hot dogs or sausages – whatever you prefer
8 cups water
3/4 cup baking soda
Coarse or pretzel salt

Directions:
For the dough:
1. Combine water and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and whisk until yeast is dissolved and starts to bubble, about 5 minutes. Add sugar, salt, 1 egg, butter and 1 cup of flour, and whisk together. Turn machine on low and add remaining flour in batches, waiting until each batch is combined. Stop every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl and clean off the hook.
2. Once you’ve incorporated all of the flour and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, transfer the dough ball to an oiled bowl, flip to oil the dough on all sides, cover with a kitchen towel, and let rise for 45 minutes in a warm place – your kitchen counter should be fine – until it doubles in size.

For the mustard seeds:
1. Bring the vinegar, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stir to dissolve, then remove from heat and stir in the mustard seeds. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate, covered, at least an hour, or up to two days.

To assemble:
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spray with non-stick spray and dust with flour – this is important, or else the dough will stick; set aside. Cut hot dogs in half lengthwise, and then cut each half in four pieces, so that you have eight pieces per hot dog; set aside.
2. Divide the dough in half, and on a floured surface, roll out each half into a 1/2-inch thick square, then slice into 2-inch strips. Take one strip and evenly space hot dog pieces about 1/2 inch apart on top, add a few pickled mustard seeds, then top with another dough strip. Using a pastry cutter or knife, slice through the top and bottom layer of dough around each hot dog piece, to make a little packet. Pinch the sides of each together if necessary to make sure there are no holes. Repeat with remaining dough and hot dogs. (The bites can be prepared up to this point and frozen for up to three weeks.)
3. Bring the eight cups water and baking soda to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add a few pretzel bites and boil for about 30 seconds; remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the baking sheet. (The baking soda in the water helps keep the dough lighter.) Repeat with the remaining bites.
4. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Beat the remaining egg with a few splashes of water, and brush over the tops of the bites; sprinkle with salt. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

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