1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 tsp. baking soda mixed with 1 quart water
1 egg, beaten with 2 tsp water
Optional: kosher salt, sesame seed, poppy seed, carraway, cumin, cinnamon sugar, garlic salt (Be creative!)
1. Combine the water, sugar and yeast in a large mixing bowl and set aside in a warm spot. After 10-15 minutes, the mixture should begin to foam and bubble.
2. Add the salt and half of the flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Turn the dough out onto a clean, floured surface and gradually knead just enough remaining flour to form a smooth and elastic dough.
3. Continue to knead the dough for another 5 minutes before transferring it to a clean bowl oiled with a few drops of olive oil. Turn the dough in the bowl to coat all sides evenly with oil.
4. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk, about half an hour. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Punch the dough down and roll into a large log. Divide into 12 even pieces, then roll each piece into a 16-18 inch rope.
5. Shape the pretzels into any shapes that come to mind. To form a traditional pretzel shape, simply tie the dough into a loose knot pinching the ends across the loops.
6. Combine the baking soda and the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower each pretzel in the boiling water until it begins to float, about 30 seconds.
7. Drain each pretzel and transfer to a greased baking sheet, brush lightly with the egg-water mixture and sprinkle generously with kosher salt or cumin, caraway, sesame, and poppy seeds.
8. Cover the pretzels with a cloth and allow to rise again, about 5 minutes. Bake in preheated 450°F oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
9. Enjoy! They save better if you wrap them in a bowl covered in saran wrap, outside of the fridge. You can warm them up (they'll stay semi-soft for a couple of days) in the microwave with the saran wrap on to keep in the moisture.