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5 July 2007 - blog

I've been contemplating making pretzels. I was born in Munich, the home of the pretzel, so this is a problem: I have super high standards. Good Eats had an episode dedicated to pretzels, including a recipe that reviewers seem to like. I also found a recipe in one of my German cookbooks, which might be more authentic. I'm probably going to try several recipes to end up with a product similar to my beloved Bavarian pretzels.

The sticking point for this cooking endevour is the basic (i.e., opposite of acidic) bath given to pretzels before baking. Germans use lye (NaOH). Lye is extremely basic and toxic, so it needs to be handled with care (i.e., rubber gloves and safety glasses). For those who don't know lye, it has a memorable cameo in Fight Club. Because of its danger, Alton Brown uses baking soda instead; while it is basic, its pH level is much lower. According to various websites, you just can't make an authentic Bavarian pretzel without the lye. So, I'm contemplating buying some.