My first attempt at pretzels and it won't be the last. The family loved them. The only drawback is that they are best eaten the same day so they'll all eaten pretty quickly. The recipe is from Pretzel Making at Home by Andrea Slonecker (Chronicle Books, 2013). There are hard and soft pretzels - these are soft ones but I'll give the hard ones a go another time. This recipe only makes 8 so double up if you have a horde to feed.

Makes 8
1/4 c baked baking soda
2 1/4 tsp dry yeast
1/2 c lukewarm water
1 tbsp brown sugar (or barley malt syrup or rice syrup)
3 1/4 flour
1/2 c cold pilsner-style beer (I just used my husband's 0% alc beer that was in the fridge)
2 tbsp butter, finely cubed
2 tsp sea salt

For baking:
1 egg, beaten
Toppings of your choice - sea salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds etc\

Preheat oven to 120C and line a baking tray with foil. Pour the baking soda onto it and spread out, removing any lumps. Bake for 1 hour then leave to cool. You can bake large batches of baking soda for future pretzel making and just store in an airtight container.

Place the warm water in a large bowl and mix the yeast and sugar/syrup into it. Leave to start foaming for 5-7 minutes.

Stir in flour, beer, butter and salt and mix until a dough forms - it should be slightly tacky but not sticky. Add more flour or water 1 tbsp at a time to get the consistency you need.

Knead the dough on an unfloured surface for a few minutes. Grease the bowl and return the dough into it and cover with cling film. Put in the fridge to rise for at least 8 hours or overnight, for optimal flavour. Or you can let the dough rise at room temperature until it has double in size, about 2 hours, if you want to make them the same day.

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Dampen 2 tea towels. Turn the dough out onto an unfloured surface and cut into 8 equal-size pieces. Work with one piece of dough and keep the rest under a damp tea towel.

First shaping: Shape the piece into a rectangle about 9 x 14cm. Roll up from the long side into a log and pinch the ends. Then roll into a rope about 30-40 cm long. Place back under the tea towel and shape the rest of the pieces.

Second shaping: Take one rope and roll out further to about 60-70cm long, keeping the middle about 2.5cm thick and tapering to thin ends. Hold up the rope in a U shape and cross the ends about 7.5 cm from the tips then cross them again. Fold the ends down and press into the U at about 4 o'clock and 8 o'clock, leaving about 5mm overhang. Place pretztel onto your baking sheet and cover with the other damp tea towel.

Repeat with the remaining pieces, leaving space between each pretzel. Leave at room temperature for the second rise, up to an hour. You could also wrap the pretzels in cling film and refrigerate for up to 8 hours if you want to bake them later.

Preheat the oven to 210C.

Bring 2 lt of water to boil in a large pot and pour in your baked baking soda. Keep at a simmer. Using a large slotted spoon place a pretzel into the solution for 20 seconds, turning over halfway. Drain the liquid and place back onto the baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pretzels. Brush the tops with egg then make a slit on the top of each pretzel at the thickest part with a sharp knife. Sprinkle your toppings over each pretzel.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating the trays from front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool before eating.

Soft, squishy and salty - delicious fresh from the oven.