Warm, homemade pretzels have always been a hit with my family at the holidays. When I saw this recipe for German Soft Pretzel Sticks, I really liked how easy it was to make. And, of course, I made a few minor tweaks to personalize it to my tastes.
Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper and butter the paper.
Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan and let cool. Finely chop the bacon into small bacon bits and set aside.
In a large bowl, stir the brown sugar into 2 cups of warm water until fully dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over the water and let stand until foamy (5 minutes). Stir in vegetable oil and 3 cups of the flour. Knead in the remaining 2 3/4 cups of flour (dough will be slightly sticky).
Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until silky (3 minutes). If the dough is very sticky, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour. Transfer dough to a large, oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in bulk (45 minutes).
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Knead the dough lightly, flatten it out and cut it into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a 9-inch stick about 1/2 inch thick. Transfer the sticks to the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches between them. Let stand uncovered until puffed (25 minutes).
In a large, deep skillet, stir the baking soda into 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium high. Using 2 slotted spoons, carefully transfer 6 pretzel sticks at a time to the simmering water for 30 seconds, turning once. Add about 1 cup of hot water after before cooking the second batch of pretzels. Transfer the pretzel sticks to paper towels to drain, then return them to the baking sheets, spacing them evenly.
Brush the pretzel sticks with the egg wash and sprinkle with salt and crispy bacon bits. Bake for 10 minutes, or until dark brown. Serve pretzels warm or at room temperature with your favorite mustard.
Lightly adapted from German Soft Pretzel Sticks Recipe by Grant Achatz, appearing in Food & Wine.