Nothing beats a buttery soft pretzel. They're pretty easy and fun to make. Playing with the dough and making different shapes is super fun for all ages. But eating them is the best part.
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
You'll need flour, sugar, baking soda, salt (regular table salt and coarse salt), active dry yeast, and butter (or margarine). This recipe makes a lot of pretzels, so feel free to half the recipe if you don't want that many. You can however freeze the extra pretzels and microwave them later. They are quite tasty and much cheaper than the store-bought ones.
Step 2: Yeast
Mix 3 packets of active dry yeast, and 2 teaspoons of sugar into 2 and 1/2 cups of very warm water. Mix until all is dissolved and set to the side while you get everything else together. It will start getting bubbly. Don't worry. It's supposed to. And yes, it has a very yeasty aroma. That's ok too.
Step 3: Everything Else
Go ahead and start melting 5 tablespoons of butter or margarine, but don't add it yet. Put 9 cups of all-purpose flour in a large bowl. Of course a flour war may ensue if you have helpers, but try to at least get what you need in the bowl first. Then add a cup of sugar and 3 teaspoons of salt. Blend well.
Step 4: You Really "Knead" It
Now you put it all together. Make a little well in the center of the flour mix and pour in the butter and the yeast mixture. Stir it up as much as you can until it starts getting really thick. Then start kneading it with your hands. It will get messy. Knead it until all ingredients are well blended and no flour remains on the side of the bowl. Should take quite a few minutes. Add a very small amount of water if needed in order to get all the flour blended in. When it is all kneaded and ready, place it into a greased bowl, spray a little cooking spray on top of the dough (so it doesn't get dry or crusty), and cover it. Leave it sit for at least an hour to rise. It should double in size.
Step 5: Punch It
*Boxing gloves are not really recommended for use in the kitchen. Once the dough has doubled in size, uncover it and punch it down. It's kinda neat watching it deflate.
Step 6: Baking Soda Bath
This part seems strange, but it's very scientific. Google it if you don't believe me, but the chemical reaction this makes with the dough is what gives it that pretzely color and texture on the outside. So all you do is take about 5 cups of water and half a cup of baking soda and mix it well. Set it to the side. You'll be using it soon.
Step 7: Play With Your Dough
Now comes the fun part. Separate your dough into as many pieces as you want. Roll it out and twist it up to make pretzel shapes, other designs, make smiley faces, peace signs, or cut it up into small pretzel bites. Whatever you make, dip it in the baking soda bath and set it on some wax paper, so the excess water can run off. Sprinkle with the coarse salt. (If you'd rather have cinnamon/sugar pretzels, don't put the salt on. Just dip the dough and set it down on the wax paper.)
Step 8: Baking
Go ahead and begin preheating your oven to 350. Carefully place pretzels on a greased baking sheet and let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes to rise up again a bit. I actually have 2 ovens, so I proof them in one on a low, warm temp. They rise up a little faster that way, but you don't have to do that. Then just bake them on 350 for about 8 minutes, depending on size, until they are a golden brown color. Take them out and brush them with melted butter. (This is when you'd sprinkle on the cinnamon/sugar if that's the way you want them.)
Step 9: Eat 'Em
Eat up. These are best fresh, but as I said, you can freeze them and reheat them later. We usually don't have enough left to save though. They're so soft and buttery and good, we devour them all.