i thought it would be an edgy thing to do to play around with chemicals that require safety goggles. baking soda? that's for ninnies. real pretzel makers use lye! i promise you i looked really un-edgy though, wearing my oven mitts with gallon-sized ziploc bags over them as hand protection. (i gotta protect the paws, i am playing with san fermin in a few days!)
my gosh, i was such a pansy in the kitchen. as i handled the lye, i got all scared and realized i probably should have scheduled my danger time on a day when eggboy could have been around in case something super ugly happened. what if i spilled it on my toes or burnt a hole in my shirt and he was all the way out chisel plowing in the bean fields?? eeermmrmfiumph. i was sooo nervous the entire time i was bathing my little challahs. but luckily, i survived and have some unbelievable bread to prove it!
if you've never used lye for your pretzels, i highly recommend ordering some and trying it out. you'll see that the lye is what gives pretzels their unique pretzel-y taste and pretty brown color. (further reading on that here.)
i chose to pretzelize challah because i'm always dreaming up new shit to do with challah, it is one of my most favorite breads. it's so eggy and doughy... this pretzel challah is like the softest soft pretzel you've ever had, and it is a bit sweet, which makes it perfect on its own or with a spoonful of mustard (pictured is my new fig mustard).
i can't wait to pretzelize more things... donuts? pork buns? waffles? the carb world is my oyster!
makes six small loaves
one batch of this challah dough (do add the cardamom. stop after step 6 and meet back here.)
1/4 c food grade lye
5 c water
course sea salt, for sprinkling
also: rubber or latex gloves and protective eye wear!
1. once you have made your dough and it is fully risen, divide dough into 6 equal parts. divide each of those into 3 parts, roll them out into 1-inch ropes, and braid them together. place on floured baking sheets and freeze for 20-30 minutes, or refrigerate for an hour.
2. as the loaves chill, put on your gloves and eye wear, and prepare the lye bath. in a casserole dish, combine the 5 cups of water and the 1/4 cup of lye. add the lye slowly so that it doesn't splash.
3. preheat oven to 400.
4. prepare two baking sheets with greased parchment paper. using two spatulas or your gloved hands, carefully dip each loaf into the bath, top side down, giving the top side 10-15 seconds before placing it onto a baking sheet. sprinkle with salt. bake for 15-20 minutes, until loaves are golden brown and cooked through.
enjoy with mustard and a beer or six!