There is also an Alton Brown recipe for these that looks promising, but I haven't yet tested it. But this one, this one is easy, fast, and VERY authentic with the inclusion of a boiling in water and baking soda prior to baking. I encourage you to try this, if you don't already make pretzels. If I can do it...well, you know the rest.
For pretzel dough:
1 packet active dry yeast
1 C. warm (NOT HOT) water
2-3/4 C. flour
1 T. sugar or equivalent in honey
1/2 t. salt (slightly more if using kosher salt)
2 T. olive oil (you could also use softened butter)
4 C. water
2 T. baking soda
For topping pretzels prior to baking:
2 T. kosher salt OR herbs of choice OR cinnamon sugar OR finely grated cheeses OR anything your imagination dictates
Add yeast and sugar or honey to warm water; let sit 5 minutes to allow yeast to get foamy.
Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, salt and oil in a large mixing bowl. Add yeast mixture and stir, or mix with stand-mixer, until well-combined. Add remaining 1-1/4 cups flour. Knead dough 3 minutes by hand, or half that time using a stand mixer with dough-hook attachment; form dough into a ball, lightly oil dough, turning to coat, cover, and rise for 1 hour. Dough should double in size. (I like to use my trusty old microwave trick here: boil a cup of water in the microwave, then push the cup of hot water into the corner and place your covered bowl with the dough in it inside the microwave and shut the door. DON'T TURN ON THE MICROWAVE.)
Punch down dough and divide it into 12 equally-sized pieces, and roll each piece into a ball (dust hands with flour to prevent sticking). Place balls on a cookie sheet or lightly floured surface. Cover lightly and rise for 15 minutes or so. Don't crowd them together on a plate like I did--it's not a disaster when they stick together, but it is a pain.
Roll each ball into a 16-inch length (make a snake!) and form into a pretzel shape. Or, divide each ball in half and roll each half into a 3-inch stick, about 3/4-inch wide. Let rest a few minutes so they can "fluff up" a bit.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 475°F. Grease, or spray with cooking spray, a large cookie sheet. In a non-aluminum pot, bring remaining 4 cups water to a boil with baking soda. Add pretzels to the boiling water in batches (do not crowd) and boil 1 minute each, turning once.
Scoop pretzels out with a slotted spoon, allowing excess water to drip through. Place pretzels on cookie sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt or other desired toppings. Bake 10 minutes, until golden brown.
Makes 12 large pretzels or 24 sticks.
These yummy snacks are DEFINITELY best eaten right out of the oven, BUT, if you want to make a larger batch and store some, LEAVE OFF THE SALT or other toppings before baking. Bake them plain, and allow to cool COMPLETELY. Once the pretzels are TOTALLY cooled, place them into the freezer on an uncovered cookie sheet for flash-freezing. Once they're frozen solid (an hour or so--do NOT forget and leave them there overnight), place them into freezer bags for storage.
When it's time to prepare one for a snack, take it out of the freezer, and place onto a paper towel. Have your desired topping, salt, cinnamon sugar, whatever, ready to use, and working QUICKLY, one pretzel at a time, dip your finger into some water and brush the water over the tops of the frozen pretzels. Before the water can dry (seriously, work fast), sprinkle on the toppings. Then heat in the microwave in short bursts until pretzels are warm and soft. They'll be almost as good as when they were fresh from the oven.
My friend Erin informed me that her grandmother always brushed her pretzels with melted butter, and I have to admit that sounds divine. With the frozen ones, you could probably use the butter instead of water to make your toppings stick, too. That would be especially yummy with the sweet versions, and none too shabby with salt or other savory variations, either!
So now you have the straight dope: Go forth and pretzel! YUMMMMM.