Baked Baking Soda for Soft Pretzels?
I saw a recipe for soft pretzels on a blog recently. I've always briefly boiled my soft pretzels in a baking soda bath before baking but this recipe called for baking the baking soda in the oven for an hour before putting it in the boiling water.
Does anybody have any idea what baking the baking soda does? Does it alter the flavor much?
jeanmarie - thanks for that! I love Harold McGee and he does a great job of explaining it.
I'm a scientist but was never to great with chemistry ;-). I'm going to try this method out. I didn't want to mess with lye but this sounds like a great alternative.
The linked article spells it out very well. Baking reduces the moisture and concentrates the alkalinity of the baking soda.
The tradition, at least in Germany and nearby us in the Alsace, is to use lye. But one does not eat such items every day, especially in baked goods.
I have found that baking soda, when baked, is sufficient to achieve the taste, when combined with a few granules of rock salt. It will be a lighter shade of yellow and not the dark brown colour, which is just fine to us.
For our bread rolls dipped in a glass bowl of concentrated baking soda, 1 minute per side is sufficient. 3-4 minutes yielded a harder, tougher surface, which was rubbery if not difficult to chew. Our technique is to spray water into the oven for better results, just as one would for a crispier bread crust.
All things in moderation, and do wear protective gloves with concentrated baking soda.
As others have mentioned, lye water is the traditional thing to use (it's also used in making Hong Kong style egg noodles).
It's still the best method, but the baking soda does work in a similar way by regulating the pH. Not qite the same, but a very good (and less "fussy") substitute.