1 egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons garlic powder
Combine yeast, warm water and pinch sugar in a small bowl; stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes, or until foamy.
Combine milk, oil, 2 tablespoons sugar, mustard, thyme and salt in medium mixing bowl; stir to mix. Add yeast mixture; mix well. Add 3 cups of the flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 1 1/4 cups flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 5 minutes. Lightly oil the surface of the dough and put in the rinsed mixing bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place 60 to 75 minutes, or until doubled.
Punch down dough. Knead lightly to work out the larger air bubbles. Let dough rest 10 minutes.
Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long. Shape ropes into pretzels. Place pretzels on lightly greased baking sheets and let rise 15 minutes.
While pretzels are rising, preheat oven to 450°.
Bake pretzels 5 minutes, then remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a deep skillet, pan or pot. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Lower 3 or 4 pretzels at a time into the boiling water; let boil one minute, then turn pretzels over and boil one minute. Gently remove pretzels from water with tongs or slotted spoon; place on paper towels to drain. Repeat until all pretzels have been boiled.
Place boiled, drained pretzels on well-greased baking sheet, about 1/2-inch apart. Brush pretzels with egg wash. Bake in preheated 350° oven 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Prepare garlic-cheese topping by mixing Parmesan cheese and garlic powder. About 5 minutes before the pretzels are ready to come out of oven, sprinkle the tops with garlic-cheese topping.
Remove from pans and let cool slightly on wire racks. Serve warm.
Yield: 12 large pretzels.
The advantage of the added flavorings in this recipe is that it eliminates the need for messy dips. But if you want more traditional pretzels, you can omit the mustard and thyme (the amount of flour will be a bit less, too) and top them with coarse salt just after the egg wash. Of course, the dough is simple enough that you could make a batch of each and have a taste test.
Use greased baking sheets rather than parchment paper. The damp pretzels stick to the paper and get misshapen in the process.
Leftover pretzels are just fine the next day. Reheat them in a preheated 200° oven 10 or 15 minutes. You can use the microwave oven, of course, but it might make them a bit tough