- 1 ¼ c warm water
- 1 tbsp rapid rise yeast (1 pkg is 2 1/4 tsp so you'll need 2 to get 1 T)
- ¼ c brown sugar, packed
- 2 c bread flour
- 1 1/2-2 C all-purpose flour
- 4 c water
- 4 tbsp baking soda
- Kosher-style flake salt or other seasonings as desired - get creative!
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for a few minutes. Add the sugar and 2 C bread flour, stirring well. Add the first cup of the all-purpose flour and stir well again. Turn out on the kitchen table and add as much of the flour as is needed to make a nice soft dough. Add a sprinkle at a time while kneading, as soon as the dough starts to stick. Kneading about 10 minutes will give a nice smooth elastic dough ball. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. It doesn't need to double in size but it should be substantially bigger after 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500°F. Divide the dough into 12-18 pieces depending on the size of pretzels you want. Roll each piece of dough into a "snake" about 18" in length. If you want perfect "toes," roll to 20" and flip the final inch in on itself on both ends and roll a bit until smooth. Twist into pretzels. Pinch the "toes" - this is important to keep the pretzel from unfolding in the boiling water. The pinch seems dramatic when you do it but you can hardly tell in the finished pretzel. Bring the 4 C water to a low boil. Add the baking soda and stir to dissolve. Dip each pretzel in the water-baking soda mixture, one at a time, for 5-10 seconds, making sure to get the water over the top of the pretzel - a slotted spoon works well for this. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper (make sure you shake off most of the water), sprinkle with flake salt or other toppings as desired (the seasonings won't stick if the pretzel has completely dried off) and bake for 6-8 minutes. The pretzels will look done on top before they are brown on the bottom, so if in doubt use a spatula to lift and look. Once you've done it a few times in your oven, you'll know exactly when they're perfect. Remove quickly from the parchment to a cooling rack by sliding under the pretzel with a sturdy spatula with a quick firm motion. Sometimes they stick.
Alternate baking method: Sprinkle your pizza stone with cornmeal, place in the oven and preheat to 500°F. After you remove the pretzels from the boiling water, carefully place on the hot stone and bake for 5 minutes. The end result is a pretzel with a crispier bottom.