Soft pretzels made in Pennsylvania Dutch country are larger, softer and chewier than the pretzels available in ballparks or from street vendors in Philadelphia. The pretzels are usually served with mustard. This recipe makes 15 to 20 pretzels.
Mix the brown sugar, salt and 2 1/4 cups of warm but not boiling water in a large bowl. Stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water solution.
Add 4 cups of flour to the liquid and stir. Add the last cup of flour little by little, mixing it in just until you have a medium stiff dough that you can knead.
Knead the dough by hand until the dough looks smooth and is a bit stretchy. Oil it lightly, and put the dough back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and put it in a warm place. Let the dough rise for about 1 hour.
Take the dough out and punch it down. Put it on a lightly floured board. Divide it into 15 to 20 pieces. Cover the dough with the damp cloth and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Put about a gallon of water in a wide kettle, and add the baking soda. Bring it to a boil and turn it down so the water stays at a simmering stage.
Roll each piece of dough into a snake about 2 feet long. Twist each piece into a pretzel shape. Place 3 or 4 at a time into the water. Leave them there for 1 minute, then take them out and drain them on towels.
Lightly grease a baking sheet. Put the hot pretzels on the sheet, and sprinkle them with coarse kosher salt to taste. Bake the pretzels for about 10 minutes or until they are brown.