We originally got this recipe from a bakery called Just Cakes in Bethesda, Maryland, where a friend learned to make gourmet pretzels, cookies and breads, in addition to cakes, during a summer cooking camp.
2 packages active dry yeast 1 ½ cups warm water 1 tsp. sugar 4 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for the counter) 1 tsp. salt 1 egg Mustard, honey mustard, or melted butter or Cheddar cheese for dipping
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the sugar. Let it stand for about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 cups of the flour followed by the salt and the remaining 2 cups of flour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread a thin layer of flour on the counter or a pastry board (or on individual cutting boards or baking sheets if you have many little bakers). Transfer the dough to the counter and knead it for about 10 minutes, or until it becomes elastic and shinier. (This can also be done in a mixer for 4 – 5 minutes but that takes away some of the fun.)
Divide the dough into 6 – 8 equal parts. Stretch each part into a long thin rope, about 2 feet long and about ½-inch thick, and then twist them into a pretzels shape (or whatever shape you like).
Place the pretzels a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make an egg wash by beating the egg with 2 tsp. of water. With a pastry brush, brush the surfaces of the pretzels with the egg wash.
Bake them for 12–15 minutes until they are golden brown. Brush them lightly with butter. Sprinkle them with a little kosher or sea salt or cinnamon and sugar, if desired.