Special equipment: A pizza cutter
For the dough: Dissolve the yeast in the warm (not hot) water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let sit for 5 minutes. Add the buttermilk, light brown sugar and oil. Mix to incorporate. Add the flour and salt. Mix until the dough is elastic, 4 to 5 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and chill for 30 minutes.
Oil some parchment paper and cut it into 5-inch squares. You'll need 12 squares total. Set aside.
Press the dough into a 9-inch square. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough in half horizontally. Cut each piece vertically into 6 strips (each about 1 1/4 inches wide). You should have 12 strips total.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the strips into 24-inch ropes, tapering the ends. Shape the ropes into pretzel shapes: Double twist in the middle and bring the ends up. Place each on an oiled square of parchment.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil 2 sheets of parchment and fit them onto 2 baking sheets. For boiling: Bring 4 quarts water to a boil with the baking soda, brown sugar and beer. Bring to a full rolling boil, and then turn down the heat to a simmer.
Working with 3 or 4 pretzels at a time, slip them into the water. The pretzels may stick to the paper. If so, just drop them into the water with the paper attached and the paper will release. Cook the pretzels for 10 seconds on one side, then flip them with tongs and boil for 10 seconds on the other side. Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the pretzels and place them on the oiled parchment on the baking sheets.
Continue boiling until all the pretzels are cooked and placed on the baking sheets. Brush the tops with either vegetable oil or, for fun, mustard oil.
Sprinkle the tops of the pretzels with coarse salt. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool. Serve with mustard, cheese sauce, chocolate sauce or hummus for dipping.
The dough can also be formed into hamburger buns. Prepare as instructed in the recipe, adding 2 to 3 minutes for the baking time.
Recipe courtesy of Hedy Goldsmith