This weekend we made some soft pretzels. Soft pretzels, like bagels, get their unique crust from being dipped in a base solution before being baked. The easiest way to make this solution is to boil water with baking soda. However, this sort of base is fairly weak. A more extreme approach is to use lye, which is traditional but somewhat dangerous. We decided to compromise and use sodium carbonate, which can be obtained by baking some baking soda in an 250-300F oven for an hour.
After preparing the pretzel dough (I suspect any lightly kneaded dough will work well), we prepared a bath of 2 liters boiling water and 100g (1/2 cup) of sodium carbonate.
Putting the pretzels in the bath gives the dough a yellowish skin. When it’s time to take the pretzels out, we gave each a quick dunk it a bowl of clean water, to wash off any base solution that might still be on the surface. We sprinkled a little kosher salt over each pretzel while they were still damp.