Soft Pretzels

Ingredients: 

• 5½ cups Red Fife whole wheat flour

• 3 teaspoons salt

• 2 envelope (½ ounce) active dry yeast     

¾ cup baking soda

• water 

1.  Combine the yeast and 2 cups of warm water in a large bowl. Let stand about 5 minutes, then stir until the yeast dissolves.

2.  Stir 4½ cups of the flour into the yeast mixture; add the salt and beat with a spoon until smooth. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously for 5 minutes.

3.  Lightly coat a large bowl with oil, shape the dough into a ball, place in the bowl, and turn so that the dough is coated on all sides. Cover with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise in a draft-free place until doubled in bulk – about 1½ hours.

4.  With your fist, punch down the dough. Divide it in half and cut each half into 12 pieces. Using the palm of your hands, roll each piece into an 18-inch strand. Twist into a pretzel shape, tucking the ends under. Lightly coat a baking sheet with oil, place the pretzels on it about 1 inch apart, and cover loosely with a dish towel. Let the pretzel rise for 30 minutes.

5.  Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large, deep skillet, stir the baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt into 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to moderate. Using 2 slotted spoons, carefully transfer 6 pretzels at a time to the simmering water 30 seconds, turning once. Transfer the pretzels to paper towels to drain, then return them to the cookie sheets, spacing them evenly.

6.  Sprinkle with caraway seeds or sesame seeds and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned.  Makes 24 pretzels.