Not horrifically or anything, I am pretty sure that I know what I did wrong(boiling them too long) I also used lye for the first time. It was terrifying. If you’re not familiar with what lye is usually used for, here’s the list: clearing drains, melting bodies, turning fat into soap. It is also used in the following culinary preparations: curing olives, making lutefisk, ramen noodles, and pretzels. Lye (aka Sodium Hydroxide) is a very powerful base (the opposite of an acid). If you’ve seen Fight Club, it’s the chemical used in the chemical burn scene. It can be pretty dangerous. But it’s the only way to get properly browned pretzels. Lye can be purchased at hardware stores, but lye that’s safe to eat is best specifically “food grade” and generally needs to be purchased at either fancy soapmaking shops or the internet. My bottle of lye cost $3, with a $12 shipping charge. Figures.
Then I rolled out a bunch of pretzels, and what I intended to be “pretzel bites,” but which once they developed the gorgeous glossy deep brown coloring, appeared disconcertingly like poo. Not a good choice. If you use lye, don’t make “pretzel bites.”
|I never said they were pretty|
In order to safely use the lye, I got out some safety glasses and a pair of long rubber gloves. The last thing that I want is a chemical burn. The process of turning pretzel-shaped pieces of dough into pretzels is a dip in boiling lye-water. I was under the impression that you need to actually boil the pretzels for a while. I tested several different durations, and I think that the trick is actually just a dip, not simmering for any amount of time. Lye, like baking soda (but more so) is quite bitter. We found that the pretzels that spent longer boiling in the lye solution were more bitter than ones that only spent 10 seconds on each side in the solution. All were too bitter though, so I’m pretty certain the extended time period in the lye bath is the culprit. Additional test batches will be necessary to prove myself right. It will be terrible and thankless work, but somebody’s got to do it! 😉