Yield: About 20 servings
2 (1/4-ounce) packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm (110 degree) water
About 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons food-grade lye (if it doesn’t say “food-grade,” don’t use it), see note
2 cups water
Coarse sea, kosher or pretzel salt
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer or another large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and set aside to proof until foamy, about 5 minutes. With the paddle attachment or wooden spoon, beat in enough of the flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a stiff dough.
2. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 5 to 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if necessary. Or turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand. Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
3. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil (not parchment paper), grease the foil and set aside. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. With a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut the dough in half. Roll one half of the dough into a 1-inch-thick rectangle. With the serrated knife or a pizza wheel, cut the dough the short way across into 1-inch-wide strips. Form each strip into a pretzel shape and place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small enameled or other noncorrosive saucepan (do not use aluminum), mix the lye and water together. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat. Using tongs, dip each pretzel into the lye solution momentarily, but so that it is completely coated, then return to the baking sheet.
5. Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until browned. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Per serving: 116 calories; no fat; no saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 24 g carbohydrate; no sugar; 1 g fiber; 58 mg sodium; 6 mg calcium
Lightly adapted from “Prairie Home Breads,” by Judith M. Fertig