Soft Pretzels

by infamouscookery

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.

IMGP5751We baked 250g of baking soda on a foil lined cookie sheet. The foil is very helpful for moving the powder around without making a mess.

IMGP5734After baking, about 200g of white powder remained, enough for about 2 batches of pretzels. The sodium carbonate isn’t particularly hazardous, but it’s probably best to avoid skin contact if possible.

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.

IMGP5740Once we had rolled out and formed our pretzels, we lowered them into the boiling base solution. We gave the pretzels about 2 minutes in the bath, flipping after 1 minute.

IMGP5742Putting 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.

IMGP5743The final step was to bake the pretzels for 12-14 minutes at 450F and cool on a wire rack.

IMGP5745We suspect that one has to take some care not to over-knead this dough. Below is a cross section of one of our pretzels.