I decided to try something I’ve thought about for a while, a specialty bread item – soft pretzel. I found numerous recipes. Most called for lye, which I don’t have, but baking soda is a reasonable alternative in Alton Brown’s version. I can’t remember which (since I’m reading both at the same time), but either this book, The Science of Good Cooking, or, The Kitchen as Laboratory, explained the principle of the alkali bath, to promote reactions between sugars and proteins that create the shiny brown surface. So here’s the result:
My “rope” should have been a little thinner and longer so there would be gaps in the twists (and thus more brown crust) but not too bad for a first try. I didn’t have the right kind of salt but kosher salt provided a satisfying saltiness and crunch. The result was quite tasty and some nice honey-raspberry-mustard pretzel spread we had in fridge made for a good bite. Too bad it’s all white flour and so loaded with calories, I’d guess about 250 each. I only made a half recipe but clearly it’s smarter to do the full batch and freeze them since there is a certain amount of “overhead” in the process that is best to spread over a large quantity.
Note: While I didn’t use any sourdough (good fast rising instant yeast instead) I may try that in the future with my rough guess of needing about 4 hours, but perhaps I’ll try a very small amount of instant yeast (like 1/8th the normal amount) to give the wild yeast a head start and then maybe get a good rise and good flavor. Something for next time. (King Arthur had a recipe but I think I might try variant on Alton’s instead).