This is the easiest homemade pretzels you'll make. Just dip store bought (or homemade) pizza dough in lye and bake away. The whole thing takes no more than 5 minutes of prep, and tastes absolutely addictive!
Why this works - store bought pizza doughs tend to have very similar hydration percentage as pretzel dough recipes (60~65% hydration). Both are fairly lean, with only a tablespoon or two of fat introduced for each pound of dough. Pizza doughs tend to use olive oil and pretzel doughs tend to use butter, but the fat ratio is low enough to not make too much discernible difference in flavor, and the similar fat content means both dough will yield similar texture.
This method works for pretzel sticks, pretzel bites, and pretzel buns as well. With good old food-grade lye, I have for you one solution for all! (Pun intended!)
A passionate case for the traditional lye method over the more ubiquitous baking soda method - it's faster, easier, and actually cheaper too.
Boxed pretzel mixes tend to come with a big pack of baking soda to poach the pretzel dough. I imagine it is probably for liability reasons. Lye is a much stronger base and is more corrosive than baking soda. You will need to wear gloves and goggles as a safety measure. Big blisters are beautiful on dough and not so much on hands.
But don't let the protective gears scare you away. Lye is a very common household product for cleaning and soap making, and is not too advanced for the layman to handle. Think how many homemade soups you see on Instagram. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to handle this stuff. Sure you can't stick your hand directly into a lye solution, but you also can't stick your hand into a boiling pot of baking soda solution.
Working with lye is actually a lot easier because with gloves on, you can use your hands to press the dough into the solution to get an even coating, and fix it if it falls apart in solution. The boiling baking soda method is a lot harder to maneuver in comparison, and you risk over-poaching your dough in hot water, which would cause the pretzels to not rise right in oven.
Also, because baking soda is so much weaker, you'll need 10 cups of water & 2/3 cups of baking soda, to do a roughly-comparable-but-not-as-good job as 2 cups of water & 2tbsp of lye. 1lb box of baking soda will only make 3 batches of pretzels, while a 2lb bottle of lye will make 40~50 batches. The weaker base also takes longer soaking time, which adds up per pretzel, on top of all that prep time spent heating up a big pot of solution.
After having tried the lye method, I will never ever go back to heating a bucket-load of baking soda. A 2lb bottle of Food-Grade Lye cost $12~14 on Amazon (https://amzn.to/3FB6CxL). Worth every penny to me. It can also turn leftover fryer oil into soaps, for anyone that feels bad deep frying because disposing leftover oil is a pain on so many levels.
- 1~2 lb pizza dough
- 2.5 cups water
- 2 tbsp lye
- butter for brushing
- 1/4 cup beer
- 1/4 tsp sodium citrate
- 2oz grated cheddar
- honey mustard or spicy mustard
- Flour working surface & pizza dough so it doesn't stick. Cut pizza dough into 3~4oz portions.
- Stretch each portion into a long log, form a U-shape with the log, then cross the ends 2~3 times to form a noose shape, then fold the ends onto the round edge.
- Dip each pretzel in lye solution for 5~6 seconds. Sprinkle with pretzel salt if using.
- Convection bake for ~15 min, or until pretzel is darkened & surface is dried.
- While pretzels are baking, combine beer, sodium citrate, & grated cheddar. Microwave for 30 sec. Stir until smooth. Pour into sauce cup while warm.
- Brush pretzels with butter & serve with sauces of your choice. Enjoy!