Homemade, whole-grain, fun to shape, and fully pretzel-like, these make the perfect after-school snack.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, if you've got one, dissolve the yeast in the water, add the sugar, and let the mixture stand until it gets foamy. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the oil and salt, then the flour, until a dough forms.
Now knead it, either with the dough hook or by hand, until the dough is quite smooth and springy -- about 5 minutes by hand, a bit less in the machine. If the dough seems too dry or moist as you're kneading it, add a tiny bit more water or flour as needed.
Oil the dough in the bowl, cover it with a dish towel, and let it rise in a warm place until it's more or less doubled in size, about an hour.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or grease them lightly. Cut the dough into twelve pieces, roll each into a skinny 18-inch-long rope, and twist into a pretzel shape.
As the pretzels are shaped, move them to the prepared baking sheets; keep the unused dough pieces covered with a dish towel while you work. Cover the finished pretzels with the dish towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475 F and, in a wide pot, bring 12 cups of water to a boil, then add 1/4 cup baking soda. Drop 3 or 4 pretzels at a time into the boiling water, boil for a minute, then fish them with a slotted spoon or skimmer, shake them a bit, and lay them back on the baking sheet (I don't dry them off).
Sprinkle the pretzels with coarse salt, then bake them for around 12 minutes, more or less in the center of the oven, switching the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through; they should be deeply golden and dry to the touch when they're done.
Cool briefly on a rack and serve warm with mustard. Makes 12 pretzels.