1. Warm the milk in a saucepan or microwave until it’s about 110 degrees; pour into a medium bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let the yeast soften, about 2 minutes.
2. Stir in the brown sugar and 1 cup flour with a wooden spoon.
3. Dice 2 tablespoons butter and soften; stir into the mix. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups flour and the fine salt to make a sticky dough.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes. This can also be done with a stand mixer. Just mix on level 4 for about 5 minutes, adding flour as needed to get the right stickiness. I ended up adding about a 1/2 cup.
5. Shape into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease or parchment a baking sheet.
7. Punch the dough to deflate it, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. (If the dough seems tight, cover and let rest until it relaxes.) Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Roll and stretch each piece with the palms of your hands into a 30-inch rope, holding the ends and slapping the middle of the rope on the counter as you stretch. Form each rope into a pretzel shape.
8. Dissolve the baking soda in 3 cups warm water in a shallow baking dish (I used an 8×8 pan). Gently dip each pretzel in the soda solution, then arrange on the prepared baking sheet.
9. Let dry for a few minutes while you melt the remaining 4 Tbs of butter. Brush the pretzels lightly with the butter. Bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes.
10. Place pretzels on a wire rack and brush with any remaining butter. Sprinkle with course salt. I didn’t have any “pretzel salt” so I used kosher and it worked just fine.