Fast Food Catering

Lye: Therein Lies the Secret of the Best Pretzels

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A pretzel is a peculiar thing, indeed! The pretzel loop gives it a playful appearance that even the adults can’t resist while its deep brown sheen makes it such a joy on the eyes. The flavors that come with it – salty yet sweet with a wide range of notes from the chocolate, nuts, and seeds – make it a must-have whenever you’re in an Auntie Anne’s shop.

But the pretzel dough is relatively simple – it’s a basic yeast-risen dough usually prepared in an afternoon. What makes it such a joy to consume with your senses? The secret lies in the lye.  

Powerful Alkali

Lye is a powerful alkali usually made of potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. Yes, it’s the same alkali used in making soap and cleaning drains, among others, because of its highly corrosive property.

But before you stop enjoying the crunchy crust and flavorful bread of pretzels because these can corrode your stomach, think again. Lye is also used in food preparation, as is the case for baking soda, another type of mild alkali used in leavening baked goods. The colorless liquid is even used in canning mandarin oranges, curing olives, and preparing the Nordic lutefisk and Chinese century eggs.

So, you don’t have to worry about the lye in pretzels resulting in your death. You can eat to your heart’s content since the lye content in pretzels is within safe consumption limits.  You also have the assurance that it is food-grade lye used in bakeries.

Dipped in Lye

A pretzel is a pretzel because it has been dipped in a very mild lye solution, usually 2 tablespoons of lye dissolved in a quart of water (i.e., 3% solution), before being baked. As soon as the pretzel dough is dipped into the lye-water solution, it immediately begins to react with the solution – the surface becomes yellow in appearance.

As the lye-dipped pretzel dough bakes, the yellow color intensifies before turning into the desirable deep and shiny brown crust of a baked pretzel. The crust itself has a crisp and chewy texture that makes a pretzel such a joy to eat with your senses – your eyes like the shiny brown crust, your nose savors the lovely aromas, your ears love the crunch, your hands like the feel of warm pretzel, and your mouth just explodes with flavors. Plus, the lye has been neutralized during baking so the delicious baked good is safe to eat.

Keep these in mind the next time you’re ordering based on the Auntie Anne’s catering prices. You should always add the chain’s delicious pretzels to your orders just because life’s too short to miss out on the best pretzels in town.  

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