Mix 3 packets of active dry yeast, and 2 teaspoons of sugar into 2 and 1/2 cups of very warm water. Mix until all is dissolved and set to the side while you get everything else together.
Go ahead and start melting 5 tablespoons of butter or margarine, but don’t add it yet. Put 9 cups of all-purpose flour in a large bowl. Then add a cup of sugar and 3 teaspoons of salt. Blend well.
Make a little well in the center of the flour mix and pour in the butter and the yeast mixture. Stir it up as much as you can until it starts getting really thick. Then start kneading it with your hands. It will get messy. Knead it until all ingredients are well blended and no flour remains on the side of the bowl. Should take quite a few minutes. Add a very small amount of water if needed in order to get all the flour blended in. When it is all kneaded and ready, place it into a greased bowl, spray a little cooking spray on top of the dough (so it doesn’t get dry or crusty), and cover it. Leave it sit for at least an hour to rise. It should double in size.
Once the dough has doubled in size, uncover it and punch it down.
Take 5 cups of water and half a cup of baking soda and mix it well. Set it to the side. You’ll be using it soon.
Separate your dough into as many pieces as you want. Roll it out and twist it up to make pretzel shapes, other designs, make smiley faces, peace signs, or cut it up into small pretzel bites. Whatever you make, dip it in the baking soda bath and set it on some wax paper, so the excess water can run off. Sprinkle with the coarse salt. (If you’d rather have cinnamon/sugar pretzels, don’t put the salt on. Just dip the dough and set it down on the wax paper.)
Preheat your oven to 350. Carefully place pretzels on a greased baking sheet and let sit for about 15 to 20 minutes to rise up again a bit.
Bake for about 8 minutes, depending on size, until they are a golden brown color. Take them out and brush them with melted butter. (This is when you’d sprinkle on the cinnamon/sugar if that’s the way you want them.)
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