The actual recipe is double this...but my mixer won't hold that much. But the Germans in my family mix this by hand...I don't have those arms. (I married into this family...I'm of British decent.)
2 cups milk (or beer)
1/2 cup shortening or canola oil
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 packs dry yeast (I buy it in a jar so I can just measure out the teaspoons full instead) It's 3 1/4 teaspoons.
1/8 cup warm water (follow package instructions for blooming yeast)
about 6 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Browning solution: 1 tablespoon lye & 1 qt hot water
Scald milk, add sugar and shortening. (for beer just dissolve the sugar and use the oil) Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the cooled* milk (or beer) stir in about 4 cups of flour to which salt and baking powder have been mixed. Add remaining flour gradually while kneading.
Place in a greased or oiled bowl, cover with a wet towel and let rise to double.
Shape into pretzels... to make the traditional pretzel shape...roll dough into a long snake, then form into a U shape. cross the ends twice and then fold over to the bottom of the loop. Any shape works...the kids have a blast making anything their imaginations come up with.
Let rise until light. Depending on the temp of your room it should take about the same amount of time as it did to rise the first time. We normally place a clean bed sheet on the dining room table and put the pretzels between the sheets. Space heaters to warm up the room are a big help.
dip the pretzels into the browning solution...WARNING! This is pretty corrosive, so protect your stove and counter tops with foil and don't let the kids do this part. You're just getting the pretzels wet.
Place on a greased cookie sheet and sprinkle with Kosher Salt.**
Bake @ 550 until brown. (my oven only goes up to 500, but it works just fine.)
If you want non-salted pretzels, leave off the salt and then use melted butter or margarine to put a sugar topping on after they are baked. (the sugar just burns off in the oven. And it doesn't taste good.)
About the lye. Yup this is the same stuff that is poison...typically used for cleaning out pipes or sewer systems. However, the pretzels don't take very much of the solution on and this is the exact same stuff that all pretzel makers use... they'll just call it Sodium Hydroxide. You may have to go to a Hardware store to get this and in some cases they'll want to know what you are using it for...I've been advised to tell them that you are using it to clean out your pipes. So far I haven't had to buy it myself as MIL has a container that she has had for years...a little goes a long way.
If the lye freaks you out too much, you can also brush the pretzels with egg whites before baking. I hear it works but doesn't give quite the same results.
*you do want to make sure your milk has cooled down as it can kill your yeast and then your dough won't rise properly.
**by the way, the lye will totally mess up your cookie sheets and lining them with foil just doesn't work. So use your old cookie sheets and then have them for your pretzel making cookies sheets for life and get yourself a new set for making cookies.