Basic pretzel dough:
1½ cups warm water (110-115° F)
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
2¼ tsp. instant yeast
22 oz. all-purpose flour (about 4½ cups)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for greasing the bowl
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water
Pretzel (or kosher) salt
To make the basic pretzel dough, combine the water, sugar, salt and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to dissolve the yeast. Add in the flour and melted butter and mix just until the dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and clears the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, turning once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, about 50-55 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate it. Divide it up into approximately 6 equal portions. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough out into a long rope about 1-inch in diameter. Use a pizza cutter to cut the row into small segments, no longer than 1-inch each. Repeat with the remaining dough. Place the pretzel bites into the boiling water in batches so that they aren’t overcrowded. Boil each batch for about 30 seconds, stirring once or twice to submerge all surfaces in the water. Remove from the water with a slotted skimmer and spread out on the prepared baking sheets. Once all the pretzels have been boiled, brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake in the preheated oven until dark golden brown, about 9-11 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve with mustard.
*Garlic herb variation: To the basic dough recipe, add in 3 cloves minced garlic, 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons minced thyme, and freshly ground black pepper to taste while mixing/kneading the dough. Continue with the rest of the recipe as instructed, using a lighter sprinkle of salt on top before baking.
To make a cheese sauce, combine ¾ cup 2% or whole milk with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk frequently. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer about 1 minute until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat, whisk in ¾ cup freshly shredded medium cheddar cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat as needed.
*Cinnamon sugar variation: Make the basic dough recipe as instructed, omitting the sprinkling of salt before baking. While the pretzel bites are baking, combine ¾ cup sugar and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix to blend. In another small bowl, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. When the pretzel bites are done baking and have cooled enough to handle, dip the top side briefly in the melted butter, then dip in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to adhere to the surface. Gently shake off any excess. Repeat with the remaining pretzel bites. Let stand 5-10 minutes to allow the mixture to set on the surface of the pretzel.
To make a chocolate sauce, place 5 ounces finely chopped bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring 2/3 cup heavy cream to a simmer, pour over the chocolate, and let stand 2 minutes. Whisk together until a smooth ganache forms. Reheat as necessary to keep liquid for dipping.
*Make ahead instructions: See the original post on classic soft pretzels for the full details, but the gist is that the best make-ahead option is to proceed with the recipe through shaping (so, cutting into the bite size segments). Place on a baking sheet to freeze, then transfer to a freezer bag and store. When you are ready to make the pretzels, proceed with the recipe as directed, boiling directly from the freezer (no need to thaw).