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(Experiment 17) Hard pretzels

I don’t know about you but can one get enough pretzels? I think not. They are one of my favourite snacks. Pretzels just like soft pretzels are bathed in a solution of water & lye. You can use baking soda not bad but it’s impossible to achieve the same taste/texture you get when using lye, it’s just not powerful enough.

You can bake the baking soda to make it more powerful but I don’t like the taste it gives to pretzels. Using lye will also give that nice sheen & dark brown colour to your pretzels.

That being said, to be 100% transparent, while they are good, they are not worth the effort vs store-bought. They taste better but it’s too much work in my opinion for a slightly better product. I’d rather spend the time making soft pretzels instead.

You need

  • 225g bread flour
  • 245g all-purpose
  • 3g active dry yeast
  • 10g brown sugar
  • 2g salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water (~110F)
  • Pretzel salt or coarse salt

Lye solution

  • 4 cups water
  • 28g sodium hydroxide ( lye)


Word of caution before you get started, lye is a dangerous product if mishandled. I strongly recommend you wear gloves and protection glasses. For pretzels, we use a ~3% concentration, be as careful as handling bleach. If you take simple precautions you should be fine. Handle it with the respect it deserves.

If you get it (at a high concentration) on your skin it will burn, cause blisters and unlike acid, they can cause damage after exposure.

Do not use aluminum or wood with sodium hydroxide, it will interact and potentially damage them.


Wipe any spills with paper towels. Rinse with water.

  1. First, let’s bloom the yeast. Put the sugar, water, and yeast into a standing mixer bowl and whisk. Wait 5-10min
  2. While you wait, combine the flours and salt in a bowl.
  3. Add about half the flour mix and knead for 2 minutes in the stand mixer with the dough attachment.
  4. Add the remaining flour and knead for about 4 minutes. It should be tacky but not sticky
  5. Lightly oil the inside of a large bowl and dump the dough in it, cover with plastic film or lid. Let it rest for about an hour.
  6. Line parchment paper in 2 baking tray
  7. Punch the dough down to degas it.
  8. Tear a walnut size piece from the dough and roll it to make a long roll. You want to roll it down to the size of a pencil. Bigger than that they will be hard to bite.
  9. Keep it as a rod, shape it the traditional way or whichever way you want
  1. Repeat for all the dough.
  2. Cover the pretzel with a clean dishcloth for 30 minutes
  3. Remove the dishcloth and put the baking tray in the freezer for 15 minutes. This will make the next step easier.
  4. Preheat the oven to 300F
  5. It’s now time to put protection on. Safety first, glove and glasses
  6. In a stainless, glass or plastic bowl pour the 4 cups of water
  7. Delicately drop the sodium hydroxide into the water, and gently stir with a plastic/stainless spatula. Do not breathe the fume
  8. Take the pretzel out of the freezer and dip each of the pretzels in the lye solution for 15-20 seconds. Deposit on the parchment paper in the baking tray we prepared earlier.
  9. Repeat for all pretzels
  10. Sprinkle salt on all the pretzels
  11. Put in the oven and bake for about 40-60 minutes. Check how hard they are after 40 minutes and put them back if more time is needed. The bigger the pretzels the longer it takes.
  12. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely

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