Buttery Soft Glazed Raisin Pretzels

(Yield: 8 large pretzels)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup warm water*
*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.
1/4-1/2 cup raisins

1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1-2 tablespoon milk or half & half

To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Since I wanted half plain and half raisin pretzels, I divided the dough in half at this point. Place the plain half in a floured bowl and turn to coat. Add 1/4 cup raisins to the other half of the the dough still in the mixer, and mix until combined. (If you want all raisin pretzels, use 1/2 cup raisins and there's no need to divide the dough in half). Place the raisin dough in the floured bowl and turn to coat also. 

Take both halves of dough and place them each in a plastic bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

To make dough with a food processor: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Pour the mixture into a pan and set aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).

Preheat your oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces. (If you halved the dough for two different flavors, divide each half into 4 equal pieces.)

Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28" to 3" long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda "bath" will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.

Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their wonderful taste. 

Mix together 1 cup of powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and enough milk to reach your desired pouring consistency. I used about 1-2 tablespoons of half & half. Drizzle the icing over the warm pretzels. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.