24 blanched almonds, halved lengthwise
Red food coloring
I t. sugar
I scant t. active dry yeast (one ¼ ounce pkg.)
5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
2 T. baking soda
I large egg
dried rosemary (optional)
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1. Place a small amount of food coloring in a shallow bowl, and, using a paintbrush, color the flat side of each split almond; set aside to dry.
2. Pour 2 cups warm water (110 degrees) into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add sugar; stir to dissolve. Sprinkle with yeast, and let stand until yeast begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
3. Beat 1 cup flour into yeast on low speed until combined. Beat in salt; add 3 V2 cups flour until combined. Beat until dough pulls away from bowl, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; add ½ cup flour. Knead 1 minute more. if dough is sticky, add up to 1 cup more flour. Transfer to a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth one minute.
4. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat 3 quarts water to boil in a six quart straight sided sauce pan over high heat; reduce to a simmer. Add baking soda. Lightly coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Divide dough into quarters. Work with one quarter at a time, and cover remaining dough with plastic wrap. Divide first quarter into twelve pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece back and forth with the palm of your hand, into a long finger shape, about 3 to 4 inches. Pinch dough in two places to form knuckles. When all twelve fingers are formed, transfer to simmering water. Poach for 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fingers to baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, blanching each set of 12 fingers before making more.
6. Beat egg with 1 T. water. Brush pretzel finger with egg wash. Using sharp knife, lightly score each knuckle about three times. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary, if using. Position almond nails; push into dough to attach. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Fingers are best eaten the same day; or store, covered up to 2 days at room temperature.