1. For the Dough:

    In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in a half-cup warm water and let stand for five minutes to proof. Mixture will enlarge and get bubbly.

  2. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, mix 3 cups bread flour and salt. Add proofed yeast and 3/4 cup warm water. Mix in butter. Slowly add remaining flour. Knead by hand or use a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment until the flour mixture forms a ball that is stiff yet soft to the touch. This usually takes about 5 to 7 minutes. Add more flour or warm water, as needed.

  3. Place ball in a greased bowl. Cover and let slowly rise in refrigerator overnight.

  4. Shaping Pretzels:

    Take dough out of refrigerator and let it stand covered for about 30 minutes.

  5. Divide dough into six equal sections (an easy way to do this is to cut the ball in half, briefly roll each half into a log, then cut each log into 3 equal pieces). 

  6. Roll each section into a long strand until it stops expanding and starts to stretch back. Stop with that one and repeat with the next section, and so on, eventually coming back to the first. This short rest will give the gluten in the dough a chance to recuperate, and it will stretch a little further in the next rolling. Roll until the strands are 30 inches long and about a half-inch thick.

    Remember to roll the dough; don’t pull it, as pulling will cause uneven spots.

  7. To form the pretzel, make a big letter “U” with the bottom curve closest to you. Hold the two ends, one with each hand, and cross one end over the other twice. Pull the twisted part toward you and fold it down over the bottom curve of the U so that the ends are a couple of inches apart and hang over the bottom by just a little. Voila! It should look like a pretzel.

  8. Move pretzels to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until hard, about 4 hours or ideally overnight.

    Freezing helps the pretzels hold their shape better during the lye or baking soda bath, and it slows down the fermentation process, resulting in better flavor.

  9. Baking Soda Dip: Boil 2 cups water, remove from heat, add baking soda, and stir until dissolved. Let cool until lukewarm. 

    Lye Dip (see Suggestions taking caution when using lye): Add lye to 2 cups cool water (don’t use hot water) and stir gently. 

  10. Dip one frozen pretzel at a time and soak for 20 seconds. Flip to the other side and soak another 20 seconds. Remove with stainless steel tongs or a slotted spatula. Gently shake to remove excess and place back onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. 

  11. After the dip, let the pretzels sit out at room temperature to thaw and proof for a few hours.

  12. Baking:

    Slash each pretzel with a knife to allow the dough to expand while baking. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

  13. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through baking. Pretzels will be a rich mahogany brown when done if you used lye, or a dark golden brown if you used baking soda.

  14. Let pretzels sit on cooling rack for 15 minutes before eating.

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A large soft pretzel with salt sprinkled on top lying on a striped cutting board.