Guess what we’re making this weekend?
I have been obsessed with make soft pretzels at home since about 16 seconds after I learned that you could, 7 years ago. For something that looks so twisted, dark and complex, they’re actually simple to make, requiring only a basic bread dough (flour, water, salt and yeast), formed into pretzel knot (a rope with the ends twisted together, then folded back over itself), dipped briefly in a baking soda solution, salted, and baked until pretty. This is almost exactly the way they are made in southern Germany and surrounding pretzel-loving regions, save one bit: instead of a baking soda bath, the pretzels are dipped in a lye solution. Lye, as in the poison. As in the stuff used in oven cleaners, drain openers, the kind of thing you shouldn’t touch without a mask and latex gloves, the kind of thing no sane cook would bother with at home.
Or so this was the case nearly a decade ago. In the time since, as the DIY/handmade/homemade ethos has swept the food-curious population, things that once seemed adorably old-fashioned (pressure cookers, water bath canning, freezer jams, just to begin) or just plain nuts to do at home (making you own bitters, butter, or barley hops) have become delightfully mainstream, and I suspect directly related to this shift, the last five times I’ve read about pretzel-making at home, seemingly sane people with their whole lives ahead of them have suggested that you, another seemingly sane person who probably didn’t have Dabble In Harmful Chemicals Because This Food Blogger Told Me To on your holiday weekend agenda, should go buy lye, done some gloves and goggles and make Laugenbrezeln as if you were a 10th generation baker in Bavaria. No big deal at all.