Soft Pretzels

2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt

1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Sprinkle with yeast, let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 3 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup more flour and knead on low for another minute. If dough is still wet and sticky, add another 1/2 cup flour (this will depend on humidity); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; use paper towel to distribute oil throughout bowl. Transfer dough to bowl, turning over to coat dough with oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place (during the winter, I set my oven on warm and place the bowl over the oven vent) for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Set aside. Punch down dough and transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) and cover with plastic wrap.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [Like Deb, this step was easier for me on an unfloured surface.] Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; you may need a third baking sheet. Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Carefully add baking soda (stand back, it bubbles up violently) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg wash. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day. Rewarm in a 250-degree oven.

Adapted from Martha Stewart via Smitten Kitchen