Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
4 cups|600 grams unbleached bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons|40 grams honey
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
6 tablespoons|55 grams rye flour
1 tablespoon|12 grams kosher salt
1 teaspoon|3 grams instant yeast
7 tablespoons100 grams unsalted butter, diced into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons|40 grams food-grade lye (also sold as sodium hydroxide)
flake or pretzel salt, to finish
1. Make the dough: Place the honey, egg, egg yolk, and 1 1/2 cups of water heated to 65°F into the bottom of a stand mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, yeast, and cubed butter. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer and knead on low (speed 2) for 2 minutes until a shaggy mass begins to come together. Increase to medium (speed 4) and continue mixing for 4 minutes until a dense, sticky dough is formed. Place a dry kitchen towel directly on the surface of the dough and rest for 30 minutes. Place in the refrigerator and chill for 4 hours or, preferably, overnight.
2. Make the lye solution: Pour 4 cups|900 grams of room temperature water into a metal bowl. Using latex gloves, portion lye into a small container. Gently shear into water, stirring with a wooden or stainless steel spoon until crystals are completely dissolved, about 60 seconds. Carefully cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready for use. DO NOT touch with bare skin.*
3. Meanwhile, transfer the cold dough to a clean surface dusted lightly with flour. Use a bench knife and food scale to portion the dough into 12 (3 ounce|90 gram) pieces. Lightly dust a baking tray with flour. Using firm, even pressure, pre-shape each dough portion into 5-inch length and place on floured tray. This length does not need to be exact, this step is to introduce an initial shape to the dough. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and chill for 15 minutes.
4. Transfer 5 of the ropes from the tray to your shaping surface. Return the remaining portions to the refrigerator. The dough is easiest to shape when well chilled. Working with one piece of dough at a time, extend the dough to 20-24 inch length, tapering the ends slightly and keeping the middle the thickest part of the rope. Draw the tips upward in a U shape and cross over twice to form the twist. Bring the ends down to the base of the U and press down firmly to affix.
5. Line 3 baking trays with parchment or silicone matts and coat thoroughly with nonstick spray. Carefully transfer the shaped pretzels to the tray and pop into the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining pretzels until all are shaped and in the freezer.
6. Heat the oven to 400°F and carefully uncover the lye solution. Remove 1 tray of semi-frozen pretzels from the freezer. If pretzels are frozen, defrost at room temperature until just beginning to soften. Using latex or dish gloves and tongs, pick up 1 pretzel and dunk in lye bath for 10 seconds. Flip and continue submerging for 10 more seconds. Lift out of the bath and drain off excess liquid, then transfer back to the sprayed tray. (if using baking soda solution, submerge pretzels for a full minute.) Top with flake or pretzel salt and repeat with all remaining pretzels.
7. Bake trays in the middle and bottom racks of oven until puffed and dark shiny brown, about 14 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Immediately after baking, use a spatula to transfer pretzels to a cooling rack. Pretzels are best eaten the day they’re made.
Author's Note: Unbaked frozen pretzels can be wrapped and stored for up to 2 months. If planning to store after baking, bake without salt, wrap, and freeze. Spritz frozen pretzels with water, sprinkle with salt, and warm in a 250°F oven for 25-30 minutes.
*Baking soda alternative to lye: Line a baking sheet with foil and spread 200 grams of baking soda in an even layer. Bake at 300°F for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Cool completely and avoid touching. The soda has been concentrated and can irritate on skin contact. Scale water into a metal bowl. Using latex gloves, portion lye into a small container. Gently shear into water, stirring with a wooden or stainless steel spoon until soda is dissolved. Carefully set aside until ready for use. DO NOT touch with bare skin.
TO DISPOSE OF LYE SOLUTION, SIMPLY POUR DOWN THE DRAIN. TAKE CARE NOT TO TOUCH THE LYE SOLUTION WITH YOUR BARE HANDS. USE ONLY RUBBER GLOVES WHEN HANDLING.
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