yields 8 pretzels
The Bits and Bobs:
1 1/2 cups warm water (~110-115*F)
1 tbsp sugar
1 packet dry active yeast
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp water
fleur de sel or pretzel salt
In the bowl of your mixer, stir together the sugar and warm water. Sprinkle the packet of yeast over the top of the water and leave to bloom for about 5-7 minutes (or until it starts to foam and becomes fragrant).
Combine the flour and salt, then add to the yeast mixture along with the melted butter. With the dough hook attachment and the machine set to low, stir the mixture until just combined. Turn the mixer up to medium and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (should be about 5 minutes).
Lightly grease a big bowl with some of the vegetable oil and plop the finished dough into the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave somewhere warm to rise for about an hour. The dough should double in size.
Once the dough has finished rising, preheat the oven to 450*F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and brush with a light coating of vegetable oil. Set aside. Bring a pot with the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil.
Turn the dough out onto a greased surface and divide into eight equal chunks. Roll each chunk out to a long rope. The best way to do this is to start your palms in the middle pushing back and forth while moving your hands out the ends, then repeat starting back in the middle until the rope is about a foot and a half long. Lie the rope in a "U" shape cross the two ends over one another and fold over to the bottom of the "U." press the ends down into the dough. Repeat with all of the chunks. The other option is to do bites, in which case you would still roll out into a rope and cut into bite size pieces.
Place one pretzel gently into the pot of boiling water, allowing to sit for about 30 seconds. Remove carefully with flat, slotted spatula and place on the greased baking sheet. Repeat with each of the pretzels. Stir together the yolk and water. Brush the egg wash over each pretzel and sprinkle with the fleur de sel, or if you have it (or can find it) pretzel salt.
Bake for 12-13 minutes, or until the pretzel is a nice golden brown. Allow to cool for 2 minutes then move to a baking sheet to cool for another 3 or so before serving. Best served warm and with a nice spicy mustard!