¼ tsp granulated sugar
¼ cup warm (105 to 100 degrees F) water
¾ cup milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size chunks
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yollk
2 cup unsifted bleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
1 ⅓ cup unsifted unbleached all-purpose flour, plus an additional 2 tablespoon, for kneading
5 Tbsp sugar (preferably turbinado style vanilla sugar; see notes) or vanilla scented granulated sugar, or sparkling sugar (plain or a color), for sprinkling on the unbaked pretzels
For the dough, stir together the yeast, the 1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar, and the warm water in a heatproof measuring cup. Allow the mixture to stand until swollen, 6 to 7 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the bleached flour and salt. Add the yeast-milk-butter-vanilla mixture and stir to combine, using a wooden spoon or flat wooden paddle. At this point, the dough will be thick and sticky. Blend in the unbleached flour and mix to combine most of the flour; The dough will be scraggly.
Turn the mixture out onto a work surface and knead lightly to create a smooth dough. Dust the work surface with the additional 2 tablespoons unbleached flour. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, the dough will be bouncy and moderately soft. Turn the dough into a bowl heavily coated with softened unsalted butter, lightly turn to coat all sides in a film of butter, make several cuts in the dough with a pair of kitchen scissors, cover tightly with a sheet of food-safe plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
Uncover the dough and discard the plastic wrap.
Line several cookie sheets or rimmed sheet pans with lengths of ovenproof parchment paper.
To form the pretzels, place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Divide it in half, then cut each half into 6 even-size pieces, creating 12 pieces in total. Roll each piece into a 6, 7, 8, or 10-inch rope; the length depends on the overall size you wish to create--pudgier pretzels or longer, more slender pretzels. Tie the ropes into knots, either in the middle or at one end (or vary the knots). Place the pretzels on the prepared baking pans, spacing them at least 3 inches apart, and arranging 4 pretzels on each pan.
Cover the pans of pretzels loosely with sheets of food-safe plastic wrap. Let the pretzels rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, or until just puffy.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F in advance of baking. Remove and discard the sheets of plastic wrap covering the pretzels.
For the glaze, whip the egg white until frothy in a small mixing bowl. Film the top of each pretzel with the whipped egg white, using a soft pastry brush and gentle strokes. Sprinkle a little of the vanilla sugar or sparkling sugar on top of each egg white-glazed pretzel.
Bake the pretzels in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until set and golden. Place the pans on cooling racks and let the pretzels stand in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove the pretzels to other cooling racks, using a wide off set metal spatula. Serve the pretzels warm or at room temperature.
A dip into a side dish of apricot or peach preserve sauce (heat 1 cup best-quality preserves with 1/3 cup unsweetened apple juice, bring to the simmer, then flavor with 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract) is a smashing accompaniment to the freshly baked sweet pretzels.
India Tree Vanilla Sugar Turbinado Style is a lightly crunchy, vanilla-imbued sugar that, when sprinkled on sweet yeast-risen breads, returns sweetly scented surfaces.
Recipe courtesy of Baking Style: Art, Craft, Recipes by Lisa Yockelson/Wiley, 2012.