That does look easy! Would it work with whole wheat flour? Maybe half whole wheat?
Yes! I have tried it and it does.
I’m sure they’re delicious!
But what it really made me think of, is how overused the phrase is, “_____ is easy.” I think it’s the contemporary version of, “Here’s an interesting fact:” When I read about that rule in Strunk and White, I thought it strange and archaic, not something I’d encountered, ever- because, partially, Strunk and White had warned people away from overusing it!
I wish there was a similar rule about “such and such is easy”. Now I want to make some pretzels.
The baking soda replaces Lye in the commercial recipe. But baking soda isn’t as base as llye—but it’s much, much safer.
However, you can use a trick to chemically change the Sodium Bicarbonate into Sodium Carbonate. Just heat a cup of baking soda in the oven at about 300 for an hour.
Then make a solution of 1 cup of the soda to 6 cups water.
This gives you a stronger alkali solution than just baking soda…but still much safer than lye.
Also, you can use this to boil noodles ‘chinese style’ the noodles that come out rather sticky like ramen noodle. Even premade noodle work with this.
Actually, the opposite is true. Because a good Brezel (as we spell it in South-West Germany) or Brezn (as the people of Bavaria spell it) has to fulfill the following criteria:
The forward side has to be crispy. So the crossed parts are very small, somewhat conic. The leach has to be applied in a way, that the incrustation is flaking in big pieces. This has to happen on the bigger back side, which has to be cut open, so a white smile is presenting the inner parts of the back side, like a mouth.
Here a foto of a Brezel which is done right:
*** SWABIAN DETECTED ***
I am a crap baker. Like seriously crap. There’s a handful of things I do well, and pretzels is something I’ve been experimenting with since I was a kid. But if you’re a crap baker like me you might get curious about this. It turns out a damn decent pretzel, and IIRC correctly doesn’t contain anything you wouldn’t otherwise find in a pretzel recipe. One of a couple decent brands of bread mixes I’ve run into lately (Hodgeson Mills is the other major one, and then there’s various Irish ones).
But otherwise in terms of pretzels keep this in mind: Do use the parchment, not the the pretzels will stick all that bad even to an un-greased pan, but the alkaline bath will cause them to react with the metal. I’ve got an aluminium sheet pan with now permanent pretzel shaped markings on it. Also don’t bag or otherwise seal up the pretzels afterwards, especially when warm. The trapped moisture will melt off the salt and ruin the texture. They’re fine in the open air or in a paper bag.
These really are easy to make! My son and I just baked up a batch and are eating them now (I’m typing between bites). They’re not 100% like real Laugenbrezeln, but close enough and really tasty. I’m going to have to try that baked soda trick and see how it works.
Lye isn’t that much dangerous, if you wear goggles and the concentrations aren’t too high. (If it is hot and concentrated, it will also warrant a face shield, gloves, and perhaps an apron.)
Finding food-grade lye on the open for-the-plebes market is however likely somewhat difficult. For some obscure reason you can get the drain-cleaner kind easily but there’s no guarantee that there will not be contaminants from the industrial manufacture (is the mercury electrolysis process still in use?), or if it is some byproduct. Grumble.
If its dangerous enough to recommend/require eye/face protection and gloves it’s probably “too dangerous” for most people to consider keeping a big steaming pot of it in their kitchen. Though IIRC if your using food grade lye for pretzels you can just brush/spray it on and bake. I think the heated bath was an adaptation to bases that aren’t as strong (I remember hearing about it being borrowed from bagels?).
But like you said food grade lye is harder to find, and I’ve great luck with baked soda in applications where baking soda isn’t enough but you won’t/can’t fuck with lye.
BTW: if you ever come to Germany, I’m recommending Fidelis Bäck in Wangen im Allgäu. They’re baking for 500 years now, and their Brezeln are of the best I ever got – and I know a lot of different ones
A last comment:
These are Brezeln of the parents of Jürgen Klinsmann. I can recommend this bakery, too. Years ago I was a frequent buyer when I was working in Stuttgart. For the people who’re baking themselves: here you can see the form which a Brezel shoud have.
This is a great opportunity for homemade honey mustard.
Honey mustard recipe: equal parts honey and dijon mustard, and optionally a dash of lemon juice for zing. Do not use mayonnaise, no matter what some dude on the internet says. You can mix up a whole squeeze bottle’s worth at once, or you can mix it in a little dipping cup for a single serving of pretzels. Great on sandwiches, too.
I never could find it in stores either, but amazon:
Potassium hydroxide is available as well and works indistinguishably for pretzels.
In our house, we float the formed pretzels for 1 minute in a dilute-ish room temperature KOH bath. I didn’t realize that other people were boiling them - no wonder they were so worried!
What’s the advantage - does the resulting pretzel taste better, have better texture…?
Lye/hydroxide treated brezn come out darker and presumably with a slightly crunchier crust, while a lesser alkali treatment results in a lighter coloured crust.