....or rather, the other thing (besides making soap) that I like to make with my lye. lol
I don't now if any of y'all are bread-makers or not, but one of my other passions (besides soap-making) is making bread, and as an avid bread-maker I've made soft, chewy pretzels several times (using the baking soda-dip method), and I was always happy enough with them at the time, but last year marked the first time that I ever tried making them the old-world, traditional way...... dipped in a lye solution.........and wow- what a huge night/day difference that made in flavor! Not to brag or anything (okay, well, maybe just a little
), but they truly were/are the most awesome, authentically-tasting pretzels to ever come out of my oven!
The inspiration for me gaining the courage to try my hand making them the traditional way came from this blog by a guy named Marco in Seattle:
What I really appreciate about Marco's recipe and method in his blog is how all the ingredients are written out in gram weights, and it also has very good reviews underneath the recipe from those who had actually tried it.
But of course, as with soap-making, I also tend to tweak things around to my own personal liking when it comes to bread-making, so here is what I do differently (compared to Marco's instructions in the above link):
1 day ahead (in the evening) I make a poolish or pre-ferment (what Marco calls a 'Pate Fermente'). It consists of:
-144g of my special All-Purpose flour/Whole Wheat flour blend* (see down below at the end of post) [this is used in place of of Marco's 'White Flour']
-94g spring water
-2.6g sea salt
-1 pinch active dry yeast (about 1/16 teaspoon)
-1 tbsp (17g) of my rye sourdough starter (purely for an added boost of flavor)
In a small earthenware bowl, I whisk the water, yeast, and my rye sourdough starter together until a little frothy. Then I stir the flour and salt into the mixture until all is absorbed and mixed in real well before covering with plastic wrap and setting on my counter overnight to do its thing. (I usually just let it sit there and stew for 16 hours or so).
I also make my lye solution 1 day ahead using Marco's lye:water ratio, which is a 3.84% lye solution according to RiverCitySoap's DWCP calculator, by the way. Looking around the net, I saw people using anywhere from as little as 1% to all the way up to 5%, so this particular % is a pretty good average. You can re-use the lye-solution, by the way, so don't throw it out after the first time you make pretzels with it. Many say that it can be re-used up to 10 times, but I've only used mine as many as 3 times before it starts looking too gunky for me to want to use again. Lye solution:
1250g/44 oz distilled water
50g/1.76 oz food grade lye
I make this in the same manner that I make lye solution for soaping, i.e., gloves/goggles, etc. When cool, I pour into an HPDE container with a tight fitting lid.
The next day (about 16 hours later), I make the main dough (what Marco calls the 'real dough'). My 'real dough' ingredients:
-555g of my special All-Purpose/Whole Wheat flour blend* (see way down below at the very end of this tutorial)
-23g vital wheat gluten
(the above 2 ingredients make up the equivalent of Marco's 578g of 'White Flour')
-340g spring water
-12g sea salt
-8g active dry yeast (2.5 tsp)
-36g softened butter
-12g dark brown sugar (1 tbsp. packed)
-21g barley malt syrup (1 tbsp.)
-the entire bowl of 'Pate Fermente' that I made the previous evening
In a large bowl, I combine all my dry ingredients together (including the dry active yeast) and stir until combined. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, I combine the water & barley malt syrup and stir until the syrup is fully incorporated into the water.
Then, deviating a little bit from from Marco's instructions, I dump my Pate Fermente into my barley/water mixture and whisk until fairly combined (as opposed to Marco's method of adding the Pate Fermente in chunks later to the already-formed dough). I find my way to be much easier than Marco's, and it produces a much more uniform, well combined finished dough. Set aside.
I then make a well in my dry ingredients and dump in the softened butter, followed immediately by the water/barleysyrup/Pate Ferment mixture. Mix well with a spoon and/or my hands until all the flour is incorporated. This makes a very stiff dough at the outset, by the way (but it gets more pliable later).
I knead for 5 minutes on high speed with my Sunbeam MixMaster hand-held mixer fitted with the dough hooks (which is an awesome, inexpensive little kneader, by the way). If you have a different kneading machine, feel free to use that, or else knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes. or so.
Form the kneaded dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled. Mine usually takes about 45 minutes to double in my 72F kitchen. It may take longer depending on your yeast, or if your room temp is lower.
I then take doubled dough out of bowl and gently fold it over and over in my hands to gently deflate it, then place back in bowl to double once more. Only takes about 30 minutes for it to double for me the second time around, by the way.
Continued in the next post...........