i guess i just go through phases. i've had my oatmeal phase, my mac and cheese phase, my black sesame phase... every december i have my marzipan phase... this pretzel phase just happens to be sort of a dangerous one, i guess? i never did have a rebellious or druggie phase, so i suppose that food grade lye being my chemical substance of choice can't be all that bad. 

yesterday i pretzeled pie and it came out beautifully. you know when you get those big pillowy pretzels they have a nice glossy layer that you can peel off and eat all on its own for a double shot of pretzel flavor? that is what these pies have. they have that layer that tastes like a perfect pretzel. 

and then there is the crust* and whatever you fill the pie with. i added marzipan and apples to some, and sausage and apples to others. both were magnificent and i encourage you to experiment with different fillings. there are so many amazing pies out there, like this pear, gorgonzola, and walnut oneand these concord grape ones. you should really be able to fill these pretzel pies with anything, because amiright that pretzels can go in any direction they want? they can go with salty, sweet, meaty, cheesy, nutty, vegetable-y... 

 *can i admit something to you about the crust that i used to make these? it is store bought. i can see the mortified look on mum's face right now (i know, mum, i know). but yesterday the market did not open until noon and i was not aware of this, so there i was, way across town, way before it opened. not enough time to go home, way too much time to stay there. but i had no choice... so i diddled around the strip mall, listening to a young(er) conrad tao on "from the top" (that was the only good part about my long wait). why does nothing open until noon in my tiny town? come noon time, alllll of the townspeople were suddenly at the market, and it was crowded and i was tired. and i just did not want to make pie crust. 

so if you are wondering if you can use that special family heirloom pie crust recipe for this, the answer is that i don't know. i imagine it would be fine, but i am somewhat of a pie novice, so i don't want to make any promises :-( (if you try it and it works, perhaps you could tell me!)

without further ado, here is how to pretzelize pie: 

makes 6-8 hand pies

ingredients & supplies 

1 batch of pie crust (read the spiel above about the crust) 

1 1/2 cups of any pie filling that you please

latex or rubber gloves

protective eyewear  

3 tb food grade lye

4 c cold water

kosher salt, for sprinkling


on a floured surface, roll out pie dough to 1/4-inch thickness and cut out circles (i use the lid of a wide mouth mason jar). 

place half of them on a floured baking sheet and spoon 2-3 tablespoons of filling into the centers. wet the edges and place remaining circles on top. seal very well with a fork. freeze for 20-30 minutes. 

preheat oven to 400. prepare a baking sheet with greased parchment paper. gear up with your gloves and protective eye wear, and in a medium bowl mix the lye into the water, one tablespoon at a time. be careful that it doesn't splash.

when the pies are done freezing, work one at a time to dip the topsides of the pies into the lye bath for 10 seconds. sprinkle with salt and bake for 18-20 minutes, until cooked through.

enjoy with mustard, unless you're using a sweet filling because that might get weird. 

(to dispose of the lye water, place the bowl flat in an empty sink and let cold water run in it for a few minutes so that it gets very diluted. then slowly pour it down the drain.)





i played with lye again today. 

...i think the word you're looking for is "dumbass." 

yesterday's lye mishap made me want to get mad revenge in the form of something extra tasty. so last night i stayed up way past my bedtime of 4pm plotting today's recipe and brainstorming like claire-danes-in-homeland crazy. when i found some ground chicken in my freezer and googled the usda number to make sure it wasn't contaminated with salmonella, i took it as a sign: pretzel potstickers.

 i have had pretzel potstickers before, at talde, in brooklyn. but if you know me, you know i love my dumplings extra super doughy and not crispy like talde's were. (humblebrag: one time jeffrey steingarten calmly berated me for this, saying that thick dumpling wrappers are a defect. i told him he was racist. no i didn't. but i still love thick dumplings.)  

so this morning, when i got home from the bakery, i made my thick doughy wrappers and a really delightful chicken and apple filling. i was excited about my filling and feeling confident with the lye. and then began the trial and error... and trial and error again... 

here are my notes: 

first try: add lye to boiling water. boil dumplings three minutes. transfer to a skillet with oil and pan fry.

result:  don't add lye to boiling water. it'll make a scary noise and fizzy on up the pot. 

second try: add lye to cold water, bring it to a boil. boil dumplings for three minutes. pan fry. 

result: a few were mind blowingly good, a few got really burnt and tasted like chemicals and made my mouth tingle. 

third try: dip dumplings in cold lye bath. boil in plain water for three minutes. pan fry.

result: all of the lye came off, they did not taste pretzely.  

fourth try: add lye to cold water, bring it to a boil. boil dumplings for three minutes.  transfer to plain boiling water and boil for two more minutes. pan fry.

result: same as second try. 

fifth try: add lye to cold water, bring it to a boil. boil dumplings for three minutes. transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water. pan fry. 

result: same as second try. 

sixth try: same as fourth try, and then rinse dumplings in cold water after they'd been fried. 

result: soggy, ew. 

seventh try: same as fourth try, and then bake at 400 for 10 minutes. 

result: same as second try and f.m.l. 

overall result:  i cannot advise you to make these. some of them were amazing (especially with mustard!), but some i had to spit out as i had visions of lawsuits. i read somewhere that lye is best used on yeast doughs, but it would be so awesome to figure out how to make these. alas, unless you have protective gear and are up for a fun challenge (and want to share your results with me!), literally don't try this at home. 

is this a fool me once type of thing? or am i actually a total dumbass who barely passed high school chemistry? 

luckily! i did make a pretty delicious potsticker filling which i am happy to share. i recommend using it as the filling with this potsticker recipe. it has great directions for making the dough and cooking them. and you have no risk of burning your hair off or having to call poison control or what not.

chicken and apple potsticker filling 

1 lb ground chicken

1/2 c chicken broth

2 tsp each: soy sauce, rice vinegar, white sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/2 an onion, chopped and sauteed til soft

1 medium apple, chopped


combine all ingredients and voila!