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Nov 5, 2013 12:03 PM

Baking Pretzels - Questions about using Lye

I ordered some food-grade lye online, and this weekend intend to make some pretzels. I've made them before with baking soda water, and the slightly elevated pH of CI baked baking soda water, and have had some pretty good results, but I'm dying for the dark brown sheen of some glorious lye-dipped pretzels. I have some safety glasses, and have a pair of tall rubber gloves on their way to me from Amazon, so I think I have safety figured out.

In the past with baking-soda boiled pretzels, I've experienced bitter pockets where the dough rose enough to close up holes, and water has pooled, resulting in relatively-uncooked baking soda flavor which is super unpleasant. In some of my later testing, I was careful to roll the dough out into thinner strands or tie up larger pretzels to avoid this. Is the bitterness something to be expected with any caustic solution, or should I expect something different with the lye? Anything else to consider?

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  1. I can't really help you on baking with lye pretzels but I have eaten a lot of pretzels here in Germany and have never experienced getting a a bitter pocket of solution. They were fantastic and the crust thick, crusty and delicious. good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: milgwimper12

      Thanks for the reply!

      I experimented with this over the weekend. I have to say that I was unsuccessful. The pretzels were a beautiful dark brown shade, but I believe that I boiled them for too long (10 seconds each side, to about 25 seconds each side). The ones that boiled longer were wrinklier and more bitter, the ones that boiled less time were notably less bitter and less wrinkly. Also, the color didn't seem to be affected at all by the reduced boiling time. I intend to give this another go-round and just dip the pretzels into boiling water and see how that goes.

      Pro-tip - Don't make pretzel sticks using lye. They look like turds.

      1. re: LaureltQ

        Are you dipping while the solution is boiling? I have a book on pretzel making (by Andrea Slonecker) and she says to pull the lye solution off the stove, let the steam subside and then dip in the hot solution for 20 seconds:

    2. It has been some time since I made pretzels and dipped them in lye, but I recall that is all we did.... just slipped them in the solution, turned them once and then out... salted them and baked them. I recall they were quite wonderful. Leaving them in the solution longer may not be such a good idea.

      1 Reply
      1. re: chasamark

        Hahaha, yeah, I learned that one the hard way! Easy enough to try another batch though!