Today I baked baking soda, because science (more on that in a minute)
And I baked pretzels, because my kids are adorable.
It all started with Spud, my 4 year old.
I was cleaning this kitchen and he was watching one of his favorite shows on TV. Suddenly, during a commercial break, I heard, “Mama, can we make super pwenzels?”
My response was, “What is a super pretzel?!?” (Turns out it’s a brand name…I was unaware…)
Thanks to the wonders of DVR, I was able to rewind the commercials (haha – it felt like the superbowl or something) and see what he was talking about.
I was oddly flattered. Spud didn’t ask me to go out and buy SuperPretzels, he wanted me to make them!
I think it’s so sweet that my children have such confidence in me that they know I can tackle anything in the kitchen.
So how could I not make him some Super Pretzles? I actually have made soft pretzels before, as part of my 30 by 30 challenge. Those were amazing (I don’t think there were any leftovers the next day), but they were a bit more like breadsticks than pretzels. So I set out to find out why.
It turns out that traditional, old-timey pretzels were boiled in a lye bath before baking. Yes, you read that correctly. Lye. Apparently there is food-grade lye out there someplace. Uhh…yikes. And also no.
Nowadays, it’s more common (for home bakers, at least, I have no idea about commercial bakers) to boil pretzels in a baking soda bath before baking. The problem being that baking soda is much less alkaline than lye, so there’s a significant taste difference (thus the more breadstick-like pretzels I made before).
Here’s where science comes in…
According to this article, you can bake baking soda to release some of the water and carbon dioxide, basically concentrating it and making it more alkaline (but not as much as lye). So, when used in the pretzel bath, it gives off a pretzel flavor that’s a closer approximation to the traditional flavor.
Whew. The things I do for my kids!
I ended up using this recipe (and the tips) from The Kitchn to a T (using baked baking soda in place of the regular baking soda in the recipe).