In a large bowl, dissolve the dry yeast in lukewarm water, and add the salt and sugar and mix well.
Add the bread flour all at once, add the fat, then mix until no longer floury.
Once the dough comes together, place it on a work surface and knead well for about 10 minutes while leaning your weight into the dough, kneading until the surface becomes glossy.
Roll into a ball, place it in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature (first proofing).
Divide the dough into 6 even pieces, then roll them into balls.
Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes. (If the air is dry, place a damp towel over them.)
With the sealed edge on top, flatten each ball into a 12 cm circle either with your palm or a rolling pin.
Tightly roll each piece into a stick, making sure not to incorporate any air. (Cover in plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.)
Starting with the first rolled stick, use both hands to roll the stick into a 55-60 cm long strand.
The strands should be thick in the center, and become narrow toward the last 10 cm on each end. Twist the ends around once.
Affix the ends to the circular portion as shown to make the classic shape of a pretzel. If the dough doesn't stick, use a bit of water.
Cut parchment paper into 12 x 12 cm sheets, place them on a baking tray, and lay the shaped dough on top. Cover in plastic wrap,and let sit for 20 minutes at room temperature for a second proofing.
Dissolve the baking soda in 700 ml of water, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, then dunk the shaped dough (still attached to the paper) in the baking soda water for about 15 seconds.
From time to time, stir up the baking soda water to keep it uniform.
Remove the parchment paper first, then, using a ladle strainer or similar utensil, remove the pretzels, and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
Adjust the shapes, set aside for several minutes until the surface dries, then, using a razor or knife, slash along the edge where they have split from rising.
Sprinkle rock salt along the slashed edge, then bake for 17 minutes in an oven preheated to 200°C (until golden brown).
The shapes of the pretzels sold in Germany vary according to the region they are made. The one on the left shows the Swabian-style of a narrow twisted portion with small loops.
The pretzel in the center is the Bayern style. They do not slash them. The pretzel on the right is the Baden style, where the twisted portion is also thick. The loops are about the same size as the remaining hole.
Story Behind this Recipe
I wanted to be able to eat delicious pretzels even after returning to Japan, so I tried various kinds and came up with my own recipe. I think I finally succeeded in achieving just the right texture and taste of German pretzels (at least for me).
Laugenbrēzels (German pretzels) are made with caustic soda, but this recipe uses water with baking soda, since it's a more common household ingredient. You could also substitute the baking soda with 3 g instant yeast. If you use shortening for the fat, the surface will be crispy.