Making pretzels is serious business

I got my recipe here.

It's important to play music before commencing with pretzelry.

I also recommend reading your recipe carefully.

Because there are hazardous chemicals involved.

Making the dough was fairly uneventful, but it's not quite a normal bread dough recipe--it calls for shortening and milk powder in surprising proportions.

Shaping the pretzels.

About two quarts of simmering 4% NaOH solution. I'm not sure how scary it is at this concentration, but I really do not want it in my eyes. Also, that saucepan was freakishly clean when it was all over.

This is our dipping station. We went through several iterations before coming up with a process that completely avoided problems with sticking. Once the dough has been in the lye bath it is extremely sticky. It's troublesome both when transferring it from the draining rack to the baking sheet and again after it has baked.

I recommend using a cooling rack for draining the freshly dipped dough, and transferring it to a silpat-lined cookie sheet using a combination of gloved fingers and a spatula. Nothing came close to the performance of silpats for preventing sticking during baking. In particular, parchament was extremely problematic, as the sticky lye-laced dough loved to hang on to the pores in the paper.

The pretzels bake very quickly--6-7 minutes was all they needed, and by 8 they were looking overdone.

We baked them in tiny batches of 3-4 pretzels each to have plenty of iterations to experiment and see what worked and what didn't. We baked five batches, and by the time we reached batch four, we had a very repeatable process that yielded nearly perfect results.