Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth (about 2 to 3 minutes). Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover dough with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 16-inch-long rope on lightly floured surface, keeping unused dough covered with a damp towel. (If dough does not stretch easily, cover and allow to rest 5 minutes.) Form each rope into a U-shape on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Fold or twist each end down diagonally, and tuck under dough, forming pretzel shape. Cover with a damp towel; let stand 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°. Fill a 3 1/2-qt. saucepan with water, and stir in baking soda; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer. Gently lower 2 pretzels into simmering water mixture; cook 10 seconds on each side. Transfer to a lightly greased wire rack. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.
Transfer pretzels to parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Brush generously with melted butter, and sprinkle with benne seeds and sea salt. Bake at 425° for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and thoroughly cooked.
One star is generous. These are not even out of the oven, and it has been a "not fun" project. I am a baker and have not had success with this recipe at all. I followed it exactly and my pretzels are ugly to say the least. Certainly not a great gift as the recipe suggests, nor will they be served at the Oktoberfest party I am having tomorrow night. Thank goodness Wal-Mart has soft frozen ones in the freezer section! Save yourself the time an hassel.
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