Combine the water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let to sit for 5 minutes or until it foams slightly and smells "yeasty".
Add the flour and melted butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low until well combined. Switch to medium speed and knead about 4 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic and pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.
Bring a large stockpot of water mixed with baking soda to a boil.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.
Spray a cutting board or your counter with cooking spray and shape dough into a ball. Cut dough in half, and cut each half into 8 pieces (for a total of 16 pieces). Roll each piece into a 10-12" rope.
Beat egg yolk with tablespoon of water and set aside.
Boil each stick one by one, for 30 seconds each. Remove them from the water with a strainer or large spatula. Place on prepared baking sheets, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, about 14 minutes (flipping over after about 8-9 minutes). Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
If desired, combine garlic butter ingredients and brush onto cooked pretzels.