EDIT: When rolling out the pretzels, please make sure to roll them out thinner than you think you want. As soon as you dip them into the boiling water, they will swell BIG TIME.
1 1/4 cups of water, at body temperature
1 package (2 tsp) of yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups of all purpose flour, set aside for later
2 TB oil
2 tsp salt
Combine the water and yeast together, and let it dissolve. Then, combine the first two cups of flour with the yeast + water. Let the sponge (this is what the yeast, flour, and water mixture is called now) sit for about 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes, the sponge should have doubled in size. If it hasn't your yeast has gone off, and you've got problems. Let it sit in a warmer space for another 20 minutes, and see if that does anything.
It did nothing? Buy fresh yeast, and fold it into your sponge, and try again. This is why I love the sponge method: you aren't too invested in anything at the initial stages. You haven't kneaded anything, and there wasn't too terribly much work going into anything yet.
When your sponge has doubled in volume, fold in, bit by bit, the remaining flour, salt, and oil. You can do this on a counter if you're feeling adventurous (and don't mind the mess), or in a food processor or stand mixer if you own one of those. It also works in a bread machine. If the dough is too sticky, knead longer. It'll de-sticky eventually. If it's still too sticky, knead in a bit more flour.
Once the dough is well kneaded (for about 10 minutes, or 2 minutes in the mixer or food processor), let it rise in a large plastic box/bowl/container that's been greased. Lightly coat the dough in a film of grease, either with cooking spray or oil. This will prevent that gross crust from forming on the outside. Let it rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours (more if you're doing it at a cooler temperature, like in the winter), until it's doubled in volume.
Beat it down, and form into pretzel shapes of your liking.
1 litre of water
2 heaped tablespoons baking soda
Boil the water, and dissolve the baking soda. Drop in the formed pretzels, one at a time into the liquid. When the pretzel rises to the top, continue to boil for another 30 seconds. Scoop out with a slotted spoon, and lay onto a parchment-lined, greased baking sheet. As soon as it's laid onto the baking sheet, sprinkle on your salt or sesame seeds (whichever you prefer is fine).
Bake at 425ºF for 14 minutes. Turn the pans, and bake for another 7 minutes.