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Food grade lye for pretzels?

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I was looking to make the Pretzels from January's Food and Wine for the Superbowl. Does anyone have any idea where to get the food grade lye they need to be dipped in to crisp the crust in the central LA area (Koreatown to Culver City on the East West axis and Hollywood to Culver on the North South for bonus points!) Thanks!

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  1. that's a tough last-minute request - you'd probably have to order it online. see if Rockenwagner or La Brea Bakery would be wiling to sell you some...or try one of the mall pretzel shops like Auntie Anne's or Wetzel's.

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    La Brea Bakery
    624 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036

    Auntie Anne's
    1500 E Village Way, Orange, CA 92865

    1. Maybe try your local hardware store?

      Short of that, you could always use baking soda/boiling water as a substitute.

      1. Look for "lye water" in Chinese markets.
        Lye is sodium hydroxide and lye water is sodium hydroxide and water.
        It's used in the preparation of Chinese dumplings or pastries and other items.

        Might look like this https://www.philamfood.com/LUCIA-PURE...

        http://sodium-hydroxide.com/caustic-p...

        4 Replies
        1. re: monku

          awesome tip, monku. i searched for Sodium Hydroxide & NaOH but came up empty, and i never would have known about lye in Chinese dumplings. i love it when a fellow Hound teaches me something new :)

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            I've never used it, but years ago I saw it in a Chinese market in the food section and wondered what they used it for and looked it up.
            I've used the baking soda water method to make pretzels--I'd be scared to have stuff like lye water around.

            1. re: monku

              It doesn't work that well with what the OP wants to do (i.e. pretzels). I've used that stuff for making hand-pulled noodles, but even for that it just seems off.

              Just a word to the wise. YMMV.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                Thank you everyone for your thoughtful and timely posting. I was able to get some lye water (and Lunasia dim sum, YUM!) in the SGV with 24 hours to spare before kick off. I haven't made a ton of pretzels in my time, but I'd say while the lye water (purchased at 99 ranch) did add a certain je nais sais quoi flavor-wise, they didn't really contribute to any sort of crisping of the exterior as some pretzel mavens on the web had promised. Maybe if I'd gone for an egg glaze...Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions. And there is lye water at 99 ranch if anyone is in the market!

        2. Maybe call Surfas in Culver City.

          1. I've heard there's no real difference between the food grade stuff and, say, Red Devil.

            1. Sorry if this is OT, but I've always found the smell of pretzels nauseating - could it be lye that produces that pretzel-y smell? Or something else? I'd assumed it was a special type of salt or glaze.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cant talk...eating

                ...... because their secret taste is due to them being dipped in lye before baking

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                http://germanfood.about.com/od/bread/...