As part of an adventure this year in Austria I tasted real pretzels. Not that I haven't head pretzels before, but not one of them was the real thing. Crusty outside with a soft, chewy center, these provide a perfect meal or snack with spicy mustard and a proper Frankfurter. The outside of the pretzels is unusually brown. This is due to the little base bath that the pretzels must take before jumping into the oven. All the tasty flavors on the outside of meats and breads cooked at high temperature are developed by a set of reactions called: Maillard reactions. It so happens, that these are sped up in basic conditions. Now, one can go extreme, and bathe the pretzels in lye. But nowadays the home-cook will prepare a baking soda solution to achieve a similar outcome. It's worth it!
0.75 cup warm water
0.5 tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1.5 tsp dried yeast
11 ounces of flour
1 oz butter
5 cups water
1/3 cup baking soda
Mix water, sugar, salt and yeast in a Kitchenaid blender. Allow to bloom for 5 minutes.
Add flour and butter. Mix and then knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. Oil and cover with foil. Set aside covered for 50 minutes until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with vegetable oil.
Mix the 5 cups of water with the baking soda and bring to a boil. Shape four pretzels and immerse into boiling bath for 30 seconds. Place onto baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with pretzel salt.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until desired brown color is reached. Cool on cookie rack then serve with spicy mustard.