July 31, 2018
How to Make the Saltiest, Chewiest, Tastiest
Underneath the twists and turns of their salt-studded mahogany surface, most pretzels are pretty basic—just flour, water, and yeast kneaded and folded into that iconic crisscross shape. But all it takes is a few additional ingredients to transform ho-hum soft pretzels into something magical. A few pats of butter, barley malt syrup for earthy sweetness, and replacing some of the water with beer all lend depth for a more rustic, nuanced taste. An extended fermentation in the refrigerator overnight—rather than a quick rise—adds even more complexity, as does topping the pretzels with crunchy flaky sea salt.But it’s the distinctive “pretzel” flavor that makes this bread extraordinary. That comes from dipping the shaped dough in an alkaline solution—traditionally a small amount of food-grade lye dissolved in water—before baking. And though that’s fine for professionals, lye is hard to source (and even harder to handle) for home cooks due to its highly corrosive properties. Years ago, while researching my first book, Pretzel Making at Home, I learned a great trick from food scientist Harold, who had discovered that heating baking soda in a low oven alters, making it more similar to lye. His baked baking soda is the secret ingredient for these exceptional homemade pretzels. But while it’s far easier and safer to work with than lye, you can take extra precaution and wear gloves while dipping the pretzels to avoid any discomfort. After you’ve mastered the classic knot, have fun experimenting with different shapes. Just be sure to serve these pretzels with your favorite mustard for dipping and plenty of cold beer.