Do you ever feel like a pretzel?
November 2, 2016 at 1:28 pm By Chef Eric
Sometimes, I feel like a pretzel, but I don’t feel like driving to the mall. Turns out, making pretzels at home is as simple as putting dough in a bowl of water.
Making your own pretzels really is just that easy. To demonstrate this, I started with some store-bought pizza dough from Safeway. Trader Joe’s also has a similar product that is surprisingly good. The point here is that it’s okay to cheat. Try out this process using pre-made dough, and if you like it, try it again with your own dough.
The very traditional way of making pretzels involves lye (sodium hydroxide), a very caustic ingredient that you can get from Amazon. This very basic solution alters the surface of the dough, and is responsible for both that dark colour and that distinctly pretzel flavour. It is also extremely dangerous and not something you want to try at home.
The alternative has been to use the next most basic thing in your kitchen–baking soda. Most recipes call for dropping your dough into a mixture of boiling water and baking soda. The result is reasonably good, but we can do better.
The new method involves baking your baking soda. This is simple enough, spread out some baking soda on a foil lined tray, and bake at 250-300F for about an hour. This process is going to super charge the baking soda making it even more powerful.
Now instead of dropping our dough into boiling water, we’ll soak it in 2 cups of cold water mixed with 1/3 cup of our super charged baking soda.
To demonstrate this, I compared six different methods, all in the name of science: The first three used cold water; plain, with regular baking soda, and then with super baking soda. The second set used boiling water; plain, with regular baking soda, and then with super baking soda. For decoration I put a small slit in the tops of the pretzels, and sprinkled then with a bit of sea salt.
After baking at 425F for 10min you can clearly see the contrast among the various methods. Using baking soda obviously will produce the “pretzel look.” As a taste comparison, the plain water versions taste like pizza dough. The four baking soda versions taste a lot like pretzels.
But the winner, as far as I can tell, is the super charged baking soda in cold water. It has the most distinct pretzel flavour, and avoids the hassle of boiling the pretzels. The super charged soda in boiling water was way too much, and I regret not rinsing it off after boiling it.
As a final touch, I brushed them with a little melted butter to make them glisten. And there you have it, home-made pretzels just like that.