I was staring out the window today at yet another snow storm and decided that it was a bread kind of day. I remember making pretzels once when I was a kid, maybe 10 or 11, pretty sure they did not turn out so good. Fast forward a few decades and I think I've done a bit better this time.
Start to finish, it took about 2 1/2 hours.
In the bowl of your Kitchenaid:
1 1/2 C. warm water
2 T. brown sugar
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1/2 c. melted butter
Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes.
Add 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 1/2 C. all purpose flour
Mix with the dough hook on low until the flour is incorporated, then turn up to medium to get the dough into a ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Leave the dough in the mixer and cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let the dough rise until double in size, which will take about an hour. After it has risen, turn the mixer back on for a few turns to get the dough back into a manageable size ball.
Before you start forming the pretzel shapes, boil 3 quarts of water and preheat the oven to 425 degrees (when the water is actually boiling, SLOWLY add 2/3 cup of baking soda...it will get very foamy right at first, so go slow).
Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into about an 18" long rope. It was easiest to do this without any extra flour by rolling against the counter top.
Form the ropes into a pretzel shape. Pick up each pretzel carefully and dunk it in the boiling solution for 30 seconds (my big pot could do just 2 at a time). Pull the pretzel out with a large slotted spatula or spoon and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You may be wondering why boil with the baking soda? Its a chemical thing. Baking soda is a base (as opposed to an acid) and the quick dip starts a chemical reaction where the dough starts yellowing and will let the pretzel brown nice and dark in the oven-it also adds that chewiness pretzels are famous for. The egg wash you do later adds a bit of shine. Apparently you can get even more spectacular results if you use food-grade lye, but...I don't have any of that, so baking soda it is.
These are big pretzels, so you'll get 4 on a sheet. Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse salt (or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar).
Bake for about 15 minutes until they are a dark pretzel color ( I rotated the baking sheet half way through so they cooked evenly).