This recipe was clearly a measure of my devotion to this project. First, I not a big fan of pretzels. I don't dislike them, but I wouldn't go out of my way to eat one. Next, the whole lye soak was a royal pain. I had to track down and order food grade lye. I used "High Grade Sodium Hydroxide Lye Micro Beads" from Essential Depot (via Amazon.com). These were $5 plus another $12 shipping. Add to that gloves and safety glasses to the total cost.
The dough was beautify, smooth and silky. Shaping wasn't a problem, but I found it much easier and quicker to twist them on the counter rather than trying to spin them. This seem a natural extension of rolling them out.
Dipping was another problem. I first tried a stainless pot with a pasta insert. Unfortunately, the pretzels stuck to the insert. I ended up using a slotted spoon doing the pretzels one at a time. Annoying, but with a dozen pretzels this isn't to bad. (Certainly, not a bakeshop techinque.) Next, I baked the pretzels on a baking stone only to discover that they bonded to the stone and had to be scraped off.
Actually, I made three sets of pretzels as can be seen from the picture. (Yes, I forgot to slash the prezels.) The one to the left is the lye soaked pretzel. For the one in the middle, I used a technique from Reinhart's lastest book. I soaked the pretzels in a solution of 8 tsp of baking soda and 2 cups of warm water. The pretzels on the right weren't soaked but had an egg glaze.
The lye soaked prezels were somewhat unevenly colored, but were much darker. The egg glaze, as you can see, gave the least color. I really didn't expect any real difference in flavor, just appearance. Although the difference was slight, there was a noticable difference. For fresh pretzels, I prefered the lye soaked pretzels. For day old pretzels (not nearly as good), I liked these least.
As pretzel go, these were quite good. But I'll stick to bagels or bialys.