The thing that amazed me the most was how incredibly simple the recipe is and how much they taste just like the ones you can buy. The dough is easy to roll out and isn't sticky at all like many are as you are working with them. The hardest part is waiting to put them in the oven and then again waiting until they are baked to eat them!
1 package instant yeast
¼ cup warm water (about 80 F)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon salt (yes it is a lot)
5 ½ cups flour
Baking soda for boiling
1 beaten egg to spread on pretzels before baking.
Place the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let it sit for about 5 min or until frothy. Then add 5 ½ cups flour, 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and 1 Tablespoon salt. Mix together by hand. Add about 1 2/3 cups water and knead until the dough is not sticky. It should take about 5 minutes with a dough hook, but I like to knead by hand until everything is incorporated and not sticking to the side of the bowl. Let rise in a warm place (about 80F) for about an hour or until about double in size.
While the dough is rising pull out sesame seeds, fennel, cheese and sea salt (or kosher) to decorate the pretzels with after their baking soda bath.
Once the bread has doubled, prepare the baking soda bath. Pour the baking soda into the water (ratio 1 cup water to 1.5 tablespoons baking soda). I used 9 tablespoons of baking soda for a 6 cup of water bath. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Work the dough into pretzel shapes, pretzel bites, or whatever shape you would like. Drop into the baking soda bath and remove once the dough is floating gently on the top of the water. This should take 30-60 seconds.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Place pretzels from the baking soda bath onto parchment paper. Brush with the egg wash and decorate with salt, cheese or whatever you would like. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.