The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Lye Bagels

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Stefania's picture
Stefania

Lye Bagels

Lye bagel Crumb Fresh and Toasted


Latest Batch of Lye bagelshttp://farm4.static.flickr.com/3431/3309379231_9b8f8e1f30_o.jpg


 


Some photographs of my latest batch of Lye Bagels.  I've been working on this for some time and feel I have finally achieved the bagels I remember as a child in Philadelphia in the 1960's.  The lox in the picture are home made, this cream cheese wasn't but sometimes it is.  I grew up in an Italian household but my mother frequently craved bagels and lox and knew the Jewish Delicatessen to get them.  I remember her stressing "novies" for the lox and then the deli manager would smile and out would come the good stuff.  The bagels were chewy and moist and did not require toasting to be edible.  I now live in the South and can't buy good bagels (lox/novies are now accessable but I prefer to continue to make them.)  Recently at a Jewish wedding in Gainsville, Florida, I was invited to the family's brunch the following day and sat at a long table discussing the bagels.  To a person they all lamented that, while good novies were available, there were no good bagels in the town, hell, the south, including all of Florida, down to Miami.  I bragged that I knew what they wanted and had learned to make them.  In May I plan to bring them a couple of batches (10 bagels to a batch).  Since I'm finally happy with the recipe (and I'm really picky) let me share it with you.


(recipe ADAPTED from "The Professional Pastry Chef" by Bo Friberg, 4th edition, 2002, John Wiley and Sons press, pp 187, 188)


All Measurements are by WEIGHT, grams for small quantities and ounces for larger ones, that includes the water, measure by weight.


 


7 grams Instant Dry Yeast


10 1/2 ounces of Water at 115 deg. F.  By the time you get the yeast into it in the bowl it will have dropped a few degrees.


About 1 Tablespoonful of honey (just guess but don't leave it out)


20 grams Sugar (I use raw or turbinado)


10 grams Salt (I use kosher but may try sea)


1 pound 4 ounces of High Gluten Bread Flour


 


Dissolve the honey, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl, when fully dissolved add the yeast and stir until its disssolved (suspended).  Add all but about a 1/4 cup of the flour and mix with the paddle.  The dough will be heavy and dense.  If the dough is not, add the rest of the flour.  change to dough hook and knead for 5 minutes, pausing to pull the dough back into the bowl if it climbs the hook and test for smoothness/density.  Add more flour if dough is sticky at all.  You should not need bench flour to work this dough after rising.


 


cover with plastic wrap and rise for 60 minutes on top of the local water heater, about 85 degrees F.  When doubled, place onto a board and work with fingertips and knuckles to keep a round log about 20 inches long.  Try to compress the dough and redistribute the co2 avoiding folds.  Cut into 2 inch rounds.  Poke a finger though the middle of the round and form a ring with about a two inch hole in the center, keep the ring even in thickness by pushing thin areas together and stretching fat ones.  Put on a silpat and let rise while you bring the water to a boil.  Add a ratio of 1 teaspoonful of lye crystals (available at Lowes in the plumbing section labeled as Crystal Drain Opener) to 1 quart of water, I use a 6 quart pot with 2 quarts of water and 2 teaspoonfuls of lye. You may want to start heating the water earlier so the bagels have time to rise to slightly less than double their volume before boiling.  Do not let alot of water evaporate and concentrate the lye or you will make round pretzels. (in fact for pretzels use 1 tablespoonful of lye per quart and the same recipe but roll into pretzel shapes)


 


Boil the bagels 3 at a time for 1 minute turning at 30 seconds with chopsticks.  Place on silpat for 1 minute or so to cool enough to handle with only minimal pain and no permanent damage.  The lye will not burn you once dissolved to this concentration (more on lye later).  Once you can handle the bagels apply topings if desired.  I put sesame seed, poppy seed, dried minced onion, dried minced garlic, caraway seed, charnuska or any combination thereof and kosher salt, or nothing, they're good plain and plain good.


 


Bake for 7 minutes (or until deep golden brown) at 410 degrees F. under convection, rearrange trays halfway through if your oven is uneven. Use 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes or so if no convection. Cool on wire rack, they freeze realy well.


 


About Lye.  I have yet to have a bagel that I would consider as even anywhere close to my childhood memories that was not boiled in lye.  Same goes for pretzels, remember I'm from Philadelphia.  So here goes my treatise on lye in baking written from the point of view of a Pharmacist, yes, I'm a pharmacist.  Lye is the strongest of alkalies and is dangerous in concentrated solutions.  The crystal form is not dangerous per se, but mix in a little water, say dampness on your skin and it will burn.  Do Not Get Crystals Or Solution in Your Eyes. Once diluted to the degree used in baking the solution will not burn the skin in brief contact (don't soak in it and rinse your hands if you get some on you and there will be no problem.) If you spill the crystals immediately dilute it with water and mop up, remember once sufficiently diluted it will not burn you.  the crystals will, however, pull enough moisture out of the air if left on a counter top or floor to form a very concentrated and dangerous solution, once again, just dilute further.  Lye, while toxic itself, does not contain toxic ingredients.  It contains sodium (Na), just like table salt and a hydroxyl group (OH) as in Baking Soda.  It just the degree of dissassociation between the OH in baking soda and lye that make the difference.  Nothing can live in lye crystals (for many reasons), so its basically sterile in the container.  Be sure the container you use states Sodium Hydroxide as the only ingredient.  I've read the discussions in the forums on this site and many other references and have come to the conclusion that lye is safe when properly handled and the only available compound to do with it does.  What does it do? It hydrolizes proteins in the flour and makes them brown by the malliard reaction like nothing else.  Or you could just say it makes things brown, tasty, and chewey.  Keep the lye container in the safest of places, away from kids and pets and accidents.  Only open the container to measure the needed amount and immediately close tightly and put away. Don't shake it up before opening and don't breath any dust. Keep it in the original container (once again, for may reasons).


 


Enjoy,


Stefania (the husband half)

nguy78's picture
nguy78

I just finished a batch of sourdough bagles (recipe adapted from PR Crust and Crumb with a 100% hydration starter) and I'm waiting for them to cool enough before I eat one, the little buggers can stay hot in the center for a long time as I have painfully found out. 


I'll have to break out the lye for my next batch, though I don't want to boil a lye solution in any of my pots, it'll make short work out of the aluminum ones (caustic stress corrosion) and the aluminum would probably make the bagles taste a little off.


Nate

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Correct, no aluminum pots but stainless steel is fine.  I use All Clad or heavy Bottom Belgique for any alkaline solution.  You will find that stainless is nicely cleaned by the lye and comes out shiney as new, I sometimes pick the dingiest pot to do the boiling in.  Professional brewers clean their stainless with lye (called caustic in the trade) to remove a sticky problem known as beerstone (a protein-calcium oxylate scum that clings to all equipment that holds beer.) Non-stick that's not deeply scratched or porcelin enameled steel would be ok too.


Sourdough bagels sound great.


 


Stefania (husband half)

rockfish42's picture
rockfish42

Is it worth the trouble of buying food/medical grade lye? I remember researching this a while back after returning from a trip to Munich and it's pretzels of massive size, I  sadly never got around to buying the lye.

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

this is from basic chemistry


if you spil the power dont use water for the clean up


first sweep as much of the powder up using rubber or any other type of protective gloves. Lye is a base you can nuteralize it with an acid such as vinagar or acidic liqued you might have like orange juice.


remember acid plus base equals water and salt.

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Right you are, I re-read my MSDS.  Only one problem, what do you do with the swept-up stuff?  I actually had a spill on a tile floor and used the process I described above but forgot to mention that the final mopup was with white vinegar diluted 25/75 with water.  Man the floor got clean.  Thanks for your input.


 


Stefania

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

you will have a very clean drain

jeg's picture
jeg

 Hi. I am trying my hand at making homemade soap and am wondering if lye affects BHT and BHA in lard? I am trying to find lard that doesn't have any preservatives like the BHT and BHA as I don't want that in my soap. I am wondering if anyone knows how lye interacts with the preservatives?

meryl's picture
meryl

1 teaspoonful of lye crystals to 1 quart of water  /boil for 1 minute.


Is there a weaker alkaline (i.e., sodium bicarbonate) which could be used equally effectiveley by increasing its concentration?


Meryl

alconnell's picture
alconnell

I have been a fan of lye since I started making pretzels.  I don't feel any other method makes them taste the same.  I bought a container of food grade off an Internet Web Site.  Once dissolved, it can be used repeatedly so it doesn't cost much.  Not sure if you can re-use it after boiling for bagels, but I don't see why not.   I was warned away from drain opener lye since it isn't food grade, but what folks need to remember most is that is VERY diluted.  Also, many homes have it kicking around in their utility closets. 


Alton Brown has some recipes that use baking soda instead of lye and he claims they work as well as lye.  But i am a believer in the tried and true.  And lye is easy to handle safely. 


I will be trying this for my next batch of bagels!  Thanks Stefania! 

Stefania's picture
Stefania

I've seen and tried many substitutes for lye including baking soda, malt powder, egg wash, etc. and have tried several.  Most of the substitutes will give you the color but none of them will give you the chewey crust and the flavor that lye does. 


My mother used Red Devil Lye after we moved south for bagels and pretzels which was readily avalable at any hardware or grocery store.  Recipes still call for Red Devil but it was never food grade.   Shortly before I began my quest for bagels the manufacture of Red Devil was stopped and very quickly disappeared from store shelves.  It was a year or more before I was able to find the Crystal Drain Cleaner at Lowe's through an internet search.  During this time I tried everything that looked like it might work and was disappointed at every turn.


I would gladly use food grade lye if I could get it at a reasonable price (shipping is astronomical in cost) and if anybody knows where to get it let me know.  I don't worry about the product I'm using because I researched it thoroughly, including getting the MSDS off the internet.  Lye is Lye (sodium hydroxdide) and I don't know of any other toxins except heavy metals that could survive the manufacturing process.  Technical grade, USP, and food grade are simply labeling and testing standards to assure the compound meets their requirements and could come out of the same batch and vat as my drain cleaner.


As for Alton Brown, he starts out using lye but is quickly stopped by his lawyers in the pretzel episode who force him to find a substitute. I was all excited until Itchy and Twitchey showed up.


 


Stefania

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

Nice write-up, and great looking bagels!  I have wanted to make pretzels and bagels for a long time but was never sure where to get the lye (plus I also had the impression that it had to be special food grade stuff, so I stayed away from the drain cleaner).  I went to school outside NYC and have heard some of the older folks lament that good bagels are becoming increasingly difficult to come by even for those in the NYC area.  But this is just what happens when a food item becomes popular in this country (Domino's, Budweiser, Lender's, Wonderbread, Folgers, Hershey's).

suave's picture
suave

You mean all these things were good enough to eat at some point in the past?

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

My point was that many people have had never had real NYC pizza, just "Domino's", and that is what they consider "standard".  Wonderbread, Folgers, Hershey's are similar examples of products that are only a shadow of what they could be, but they are also the "standard" in their categories.  I know it's off topic, but I recently moved to a small midwestern town where a lot of high-quality cooking ingredients (or even restaurants) are not available.  I do a lot of cooking and I enjoy fresh, locally produced food, so it is frustrating.

Stefania's picture
Stefania

When our Italian family moved to Alabama my entire diet changed.  Not to put down southern food, just that I needed a quality capacolla to exist.  Ultimately, though, this experience has inspired me for a lifetime.  I've learned to cook southern now, but mostly I learned to make breads (the wife is currently working on Amoroso rolls and getting very close), capacolla, italian sausage, ricotta cheese, all forms of fresh pasta, true cheese steaks, hoagies (with my own meats), etc.  Many of these things have become available in the deep south over the last 36 years but I continue to make my own because of quality.


If you can't find what you want, learn to make it, more often than not the experience will be gratyifying and the product superior.


 


Stefania

caltiki's picture
caltiki

Great discussion. Bagels look fantastic, Stefania. Thinking about food-safe lye made me consider that the lye that must have been used in bagel-making in the not-too-distant past was not the modern sodium hydroxide, but rather potassium hydroxide, available in the form of hardwood ashes. While I've made that sort of lye for other purposes (by pouring cold water through ashes and boiling to concentrate it), I foolishly did not consider its potential for bagels and pretzels. Has anyone tried this?


If I have time this weekend, maybe I can get some uncontaminated ash and give it a shot.


Caltiki

Stefania's picture
Stefania

That is an interesting idea. One possible problem though, is the potassium may contribute a funny flavor, give salt substitute a try sometime, its Potassium Chloride. I do love the idea of total control of the process.  The potasium may have no effect on flavor or even a beneficial one, can't know until it's tried.  Please let us know how it comes out if you do it.  Don't you just love making something totally from scratch, even the chemicals.


 


Stefania (Hubby Half)

caltiki's picture
caltiki

Okay, I tried your bagels with ash-based lye this afternoon, with pretty good success. The flavor was perfectly fine (nothing weird from the potassium), but they didn't get all of the browning you're getting with the Crystal Drain Opener (I just love the name...). In preparation for the second attempt, I boiled down my potash-lye to half its volume; I'll let you know if there's an improvement next time.


I made the mild lye with about 1/2 gallon very fine hardwood ashes (we heat with wood, so I know what's in there), well stirred into 1 1/2 gallons cold water. I sieved it through a dish towel and boiled it down just a bit for this first trial. I don't have any litmus paper or anything on hand to get a read on pH, but it smells right, and makes your fingers slippery in an appropriate way...


Thanks for the recipe and getting me started on this fun project (getting my ash in gear, you might say...). Bagels were a big hit around here, even as is.


 


 

Stefania's picture
Stefania

That is soooo cool.  Making your own home chemistry with waste products.  I live in the deep south so heating is intermittant and electric based ( a woodstove would cook us out of the house, I know, I had one when we lived at the northeren end of the state.)  I'm fascinated that it would be so simple to isolate such a compound, I guess that's why potassium containing fertilizer is called potash.


 


I haven't measured the pH of the solution I use but if I can, I'll let you know so maybe you can boil down to the same value and know where your extraction is at.  I'll get out my pH papers next bagel batch (today) and see if I can get a reading.


 


Stefania

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Stefania - since caltiki seemed to have good results using ash-based lye (like in soap-making) in bagels, and as you mention, many gardeners use packaged potash sold in nurseries, would the nursery-variety potash work also as a source of lye for bagels? I'm not sure if garden potash has any other components in it that may make it unsuitable for that purpose.


Your bagels look great, I grew up in North Jersey and we had similar chewy bagels locally that I miss. Since I have plenty of ashes from my woodstove that I could obtain lye from, I am tempted to try your style of bagelmaking if I can find a good chunk of time.

caltiki's picture
caltiki

I encourage you to try it out; it took less than an hour of puttering to make the potash solution. After filtering out the solids (dish towel in colander), the liquid was cloudy, but once it neared the boil the clouds started to clump up (flocculate, as brewers say), so I put about half the solution through a piece of t-shirt and a very fine mesh sieve to clear it. I then proceeded to boil bagels in both the cloudy and clear solutions to test. Our conclusion was that the extra sieving, which was a pain, made no difference at all to the bagels. So I ended up recombining both batches and boiling down by half to stiffen it up for the next trial.


And I heartily recommend Stefania's great and actually very quick recipe.


Like you, I'd be a little hesitant about the by-products which might be present in gardeners' potash. It's the heavy metals, etc., that give me pause about the lye sold as drain opener (I have nothing against the sodium hydroxide itself...), and it's hard to say what might find its way into the potash meant for gardening...


 


 

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thanks caltiki, good info. Usually it goes right into my compost pile, but I'll set aside some wood ash next time I clean out the stove (it is nice knowing exactly what is in your wood ashes as well, as you say).

caltiki's picture
caltiki

Thanks; that would be really useful!


(Something weird: as I was boiling the bagels, my husband, who was repairing a Windsor chair by replacing some of the stretchers, called a friend to ask for advice about darkening the new wood a bit to match the old. The friend said,"well, ideally, you might use some lye..." Isn't that just a little odd? Of course he tried it, and the stuff was strong enough to change the color in one dipping.)


 

caltiki's picture
caltiki

Stefania--


I got some litmus paper today, and my wood ash lye tests at 9.0. Did you ever have a chance to try out yours?


Thanks, Caltiki


(I've been making lots of bagels and pretzels since you got me going -- latest batch with a wild-yeast leaven. You've inspired quite a bender!)

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Caltiki,


 


Sorry so long to respond, I've been busy and forgot to test my lye on the last batch.  Today I tested and got a number between 12 and 14, not real accurate test strips, marked in whole units.  I guess 13 would be the number to quote.  This was in cold water before I heated the solution.  Hope this helps.


 


Stefania (husband half aka meatman)

bpezzell's picture
bpezzell

You just opened up my world a little bit!


As to ingredients, how do you feel about whole wheat and multi-grain bagels?

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

Well, this thread inspired me at first, but now the lye part is infuriating me.  I have found three such "crystal" drain openers locally but none contain exclusively sodium hydroxide.  MSDS's for two of them:


http://www.enforcer.com/msds/CRY2%20-%20New%20name.pdf


http://www.summitbrands.com/retail_support/downloads/MSDS/US%20MSDS/MSDS%20Drain%20Out%20Crystal.pdf


The name of the third brand escapes me now, but the MSDS was similar.  They all contain less than 50% sodium hydroxide, with a large amount of sodium nitrate as well as trace amounts of metals.  My local Lowe's carried no crystal drain opener whatsoever.  Damn, I was hoping to do some bagels this week.


 

Stefania's picture
Stefania

The cotainer I have is manufactured by Roebic, I've included photos of the front and back labels here:



 


 


 


I did a search at Lowe's website and, unfortunately, don't think they carry it anymore.  The product is listed on the site but does not look active.  A search of the product on the web produces everything but where to buy now.  Many people on soap websites recommend Ace Hardware where both the Roebic product is ususally available as well as a product called "Rooto."  I hope this helps, I hate to let people down, I just hadn't shopped for it for a while.

beeman1's picture
beeman1

I really don't understand the chemistry. But would Calcium Hydroxide work? It is available as a food grade chemical.

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Calcium Hydroxide (slaked lime) is use to make nixtamal and is called "Cal" by the Hispanics.  I keep cal as "pickling lime" for making nixtamal for tortillas, tamalies and pozole.  This won't work for bagels as the pH of the dissolved powder just isn't high enough.  However, if you have never made nixtamal, its a blast.  All you need is some high starch corn.


 


Stefania

jtrau's picture
jtrau

I am also very curious about "Cal" (slaked lime, pickling lime) as a substitute for lye, so I did a little research.  (disclaimer: I'm a biologist, not a chemist)


So, the point of using lye is to boil the bagels in a very basic (alkaline) solution. Lye (sodium hydroxide) is a strong base, and in its strongest form (a 1 M solution of 40 g/L) has a pH of 14 (the highest possible).  This bagel recipe calls for 1 tsp/quart water, which I estimated as the same as about 6g/L.  This gives a pH of 13.2.  The pretzel recipe suggested a dilution of 1 tbsp/quart giving an approximate pH of 13.7.  A previous poster suggests using potash from wood ashes.  In theory, this is a very strong base also, and could achieve the same pH as lye, but seems like a lot of work to me.  


Now, for "Cal" (calcium hydroxide), which I can easily find in my Latin food market (I'm in California) - it is also a strong base, but has some funny properties.  It saturates the solution very quickly (and can hold more at lower temperatures, oddly enough), so the most you can get into solution is between 1.85g/L (at 0C) and 0.77g/L (at a bagel-boiling temp of 100C).  So, adding more than that won't help - it will just precipitate.  Anyway, the maximum pH you can get with calcium hydroxide is 12.7 (at 0C) to 12.3 (at 100C).  The bad news is that this is about 10 times less alkaline than the suggested lye solution.  The good news is that it is 100,000 times more alkaline than plain water, and 10,000 times more alkaline than baking soda (the only other suggested alternative I've read about). 


So, I would say in theory it should be a heck of a lot better than baking soda or nothing at all, even if slightly inferior to lye.  Other advantages: your spouse might not give you a funny look for cooking with drain cleaner; and it is approved by the USDA for organic foods as an ingredient.  I bought it for $1/lb in my Mexican grocery (Fiesta Foods) in the tortilla section.  


The one question I can't answer is whether it works for bagels, in terms of texture or taste.  I'm going to try it this weekend.  But since I haven't made lye bagels, I can only compare it to my regular water-boiled bagels.  Maybe someone out there with access to both options can do a true comparison.  Hope this info is useful to someone.


 

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Ron says your question is interesting.  Since he grinds his own masa at times, we always hace Cal around.  He says next time he makes bagels that he will make 1/2 with lye and 1/2 with the cal and let you know what the results are with a side by side comparison.

jtrau's picture
jtrau

Well, I gave it a try.  Nothing scientific, but here's my results and observations.


First an observation.  Calcium hydroxide really is very difficult to get into solution.  It just kind of makes a cloudy suspension of fine particles.  Basically this is making "lime water", and I think the key to successful use of cal depends on making it properly.


Test #1: I tried a batch of bagels, half boiled in water, the other half boiled in water to which I had added 1 gram per L of cal.  I added the cal just before boiling the water, and noticed that it really didn't seem to go into solution.  I naively hoped boiling might help, but it didn't have any effect - still lots of white cal floating around.   The results: I noticed no difference in color between the water boiled and "cal" boiled bagels (therefore no Maillard rx going on, presumably).  Both batches were good, but I noticed little to no difference in color, taste, or thickness of the "bagel skin".  Tentative conclusion: no substitute for lye.


Test #2:  Because I am stubborn, I gave it another try.  This time, about 24 hrs before my bagel making, I made my solution of cal and water (again at 1 gram/L).  I just let it sit there, stirring it once or twice over the course of the day.  The cal never went into full solution - always a cloud of fine white particles that would settle to the bottom, but make a cloudy suspension when mixed.  Made another batch of bagels (full disclosure...not a scientific test here because the recipe I used was slightly different from Test #1 - I replaced the honey with malt syrup, and this time let the formed bagels do a slow rise in the fridge over night).  I boiled all my bagels in the lime water that I had let sit for a day.  Although I had no "water boiled" control for comparison, here are my results.  First observation was a distinct color change - when I flipped the bagels in the boiling water, the side that was down in the water had turned a nice light brown color, compared to the pale upper side.  After baking, the bagels retained a nice brownish color (though, I would guess slightly paler than the lye bagel photos on this forum).  After cooling, the taste test...wow!  A nice, thick, slightly crispy skin on the bagels.  Taste, texture, really really nice.  Now, I don't know how much of my success came from the changes in my recipe, but the immediate color change during boiling leads me to suspect that the "lime water" was the key.  


I'm looking forward to Ron's side-by-side comparison with lye bagels.  I'll play around some more with the next batch (maybe find some pH strips, and see how long it takes to get "good" lime water for boiling), but the ones I baked up this morning are delicious! 


 

jtrau's picture
jtrau

Had access to a pH meter, so I ran some tests. My tap water is 7.2.  If you just mix the calcium hydroxide (1 gram/L) with water, you immediately (an hour later in this case) get a pH reading of around 11.4.  Researching this, I read that sugar increases the solubility of lime, so I tried adding sugar, and it seemed to have no effect on pH (readings between 11.2 and 11.4).  Then I tested a sample that had been mixed 48 hrs before, with occasional stirring (simulating what I used in the successful bagel test#2); I just used the clear solution and didn't mix up the sediment at the bottom for the test, and this one came up with 12.5, which is basically the theoretical maximum pH for lime water at room temp (see previous post).  When I shook up the sediment on this same sample, the pH seemed to drop to 11.8 (why?  I don't know, I can't explain this).   


Non-scientific conclusion: if you want to use calcium hydroxide for bagel (or pretzel) boiling, mix up your lime water 24-48 hours before to let it saturate the solution, then let it settle and just use the clear part (or maybe filter through a coffee filter).  Would love to know if anyone other than me out there in bagel-baking land tries it.

Oldcampcook's picture
Oldcampcook

I checked with Low'es here in Tulsa and they told me that they no longer carry it (since about 6 months ago) as it is an ingredient used in meth.


I did find it at ACE hardware, however.


And I went to a brew shop and picked up some malt syrup and now on to trying bagels for the first time.


Bob

nbicomputers's picture
nbicomputers

don't use drain cleaner!!!


you want to use pure lye pure enough for food use.


It can be found here http://www.aaa-chemicals.com/sodium-hydroxide.html

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

Thanks Stefania.  Will keep searching for it or just order online.  I tried your bagel recipe using Baking Soda instead of Lye and my wife loved them - a lot.  I agree, the baking soda didn't really do the trick, but when toasted the "pretzeliness" came out more.


I'm looking for more clarification on the safe handling of the lye.  The bottles I read implied that the cleaner is more potent when the solution is made with hot water, and the "in case you need to clean up a spill" directions said to use cold water.  Should we be adding the crystals to a cold/cool pot of water, and then heat up to boiling, rather than adding them to hot water?

Stefania's picture
Stefania

When dissolving any concentrated acid or alkali you should add the compound to the water to reduce splattering or sputtering.  I always add the lye to cold/cool water and then bring it to boiling.


 


I too went to my local Ace Hardware and found the shelf space but it seems that a soap maker bought all they had.  It was $3.99 a pound and they are to have more by Wednesday.

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

I found some and made some bagels this evening.  Success!  Sometimes it pays to live in Amish country.

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

I've probably done 4 or 5 batches of these now (mostly with baking soda, as it bothers my wife when I use lye).  My wife's family was over this past weekend - 12 of them - and I made a batch each morning.  They were unanimous: these are the best bagels they've ever had.  There are no Jews where we live so that's not saying a whole lot, but it's gratifying when a roomful of picky kids are begging me to make more.

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Wow, so glad the family liked them.  I usually make them at least once a week for me and my wife.  The big test for me will come in May when I bring a batch or two to some Jewish friends in central Florida who were lamenting that you couldn't find a good bagel in Florida.


 


Glad I could share this recipe with the world!


 


Cheers,


Stefania

caltiki's picture
caltiki

Mr. Stephania:


Thanks -- interesting! Unfortunately, the only litmus paper I could buy at my friendly neighborhood pharmacy only goes to 9.0, which where  is all my ash solutions have registered. I have a feeling that it's really just somewhere off the charts, but probably nowhere near your solution. I need to befriend a local chemist with loose ethics and spare diagnostic materials because I can't blow any more of my flour budget (one packet of litmus paper=25# KA flour!) compensating for my sub-par litmus paper... The ash-lye seems to work great anyway, and I really do thank you for the wonderful recipe -- it's been a huge hit and revelation around here!


Caltiki

bellepauly's picture
bellepauly

Ok so I know this isn't bagel (I will be trying your recipe, looks really yummy) I have been making pretzels for a while using the baking Soda method. Today I got my first batch of Food grade Lye, so I tried making pretzels with it and they didn't turn out as nice. What did I do wrong. I lived in Germany for 2 years so I know what they are ment to taste like. I didn't boil the lye was that wrong? I left the pretzels in the solution for a minute. HELP HELP HELP I am so upset, my husbands parents are German and I wanted to give them to them when they came to stay. Please someone help baking emergancy.


 


Also I huge thanx to this site, I have always been terrible at baking bread, they have always turned out like rocks. Since I found this site my bread has come out great, my husband and I are very happy and are starting to get very round!

Stefania's picture
Stefania

Bellepauly,


 


The pretzels must be boiled in the lye.  For pretzels you need a stronger lye solution than I use in the bagels to obtain the "pretzel" flavor.  Jeff Renner, in his "homebrew pretzel recipe" recommends 1 tablespoonful of lye per quart of water.  Boil the pretzels for 30 seconds to 1 minute in this solution.  For Jeff Renner's recipe try this link:   http://www.maltosefalcons.com/food/jeffrennerspretzels.php


I've tried Jeffs recipe but find the crumb to be too soft and not chewey enough for my Philadelphia tastes.  My wife thinks it's probably more like the German pretzel you are trying for.  I prefer to use my bagel recipe with less rise and stronger lye to obtain a chewey crumb with thick and dark leathery crust.


By the way, Jeff Renner is an acquaintance of ours and is a professional artesian baker and a very good homebrewer.


NB:  Be very careful about any folds in the skin of the finished pretzels before you boil them, any cracks or folds will become slimey from the lye and bake funny, not bad but can be somewhat alkali on the palate.


 


Stefania Rides Again,


 

alconnell's picture
alconnell

So


I tried a little experiment, boiling a few bagels in lye solution(1 tsp to 1 qt. water) and most in the malt/sugar solution using Peter R's BBA recipe.  The lye ones browned much more and I actually cooked them a bit less.  The poppy seed on the right was boiled in lye. The taste was quite similar, though the lye ones were a bit softer from less cooking.  Will try again using an even milder solution.

Nauticus's picture
Nauticus

You are the pharmacist, but I never have measured water in kitchen by weight. Perhaps afloat and aloft.  Why don't we go with conventional units for fluids, like liters?

kay88's picture
kay88

If any of you have an asian market where you live you should definitely check there. You'll easily be able to find cooking lye there because lye is frequently used in asian cooking, especially dessert. Also it's relatively inexpensive. Hope this helps those of you looking for lye. The thought of some of you trying drain cleaner is quite scary.

tikidoc's picture
tikidoc

It has been a bit since I bought lye, but most places that sell soap making supplies sell lye.  Just do an internet search for "soap making supplies" and you should find it easily.

sewcial's picture
sewcial

OK. I decided, based on this thread, to try lye for bagels. I had a bottle of lye water left from pretzels (so maybe it was a bit strong), so I heated it up to a rolling boil as per the instructions in the bagel recipe. I gently slipped a bagel into the water and it exploded into a volcano of foam all over my stove. Fortunately, it did not go onto my laminate counter next to the stove. I now have a very clean half of my stove, The bagel turned a bright yellow brown immediately and, after baking, it was *dark* brown and tasted like a pretzel.


When I make pretzels, I do not boil the pretzels. I use a cool lye solution in a glass bowl, dip the pretzels and drain them, then bake them. They are great. Do you really *boil* the lye water and the bagels -- same question for pretzels?  What keeps it from foaming up into a volcano when the dough meets the boiling lye water? I realize now that the lye solution for bagels should be about half as strong, but I still fear it will boil over. My pan was not full, less than half way up the saucepan (stainless steel). 


After that first disaster, I cleaned things up and  I boiled the remaining bagels with some malt powder in the water. I like the way they turned out much better.


Catherine

larry_llama's picture
larry_llama

What container do you use to store the solution between uses? Or do you start fresh each time?


 


Thanks!

Stefania's picture
Stefania

I always make a new solution with every batch.  Each time it was used, it would concentrate even more so a new solution is best.  However, I carefully take the hot lye water and put it down the drain...remember, it's a great drain cleaner.  It also does wonders for stainless pans as a cleaner so I always try to use a different one each time.  However, I think i hurt the outside finish of an All clad that has the brushed finish when I got some on the outside of the pan.


 


Stefania

larry_llama's picture
larry_llama

thanks - lye crystals are in short supply here so I was hoping to conserve. But I have enough for a few batches and if they work well I will order a larger supply online - so I will clean my drain after boiling I guess!

larry_llama's picture
larry_llama

My first batch is cooling on the rack :-) ... I deviated only slightly from your recipe:


I used barley malt 1:1 in place of honey


I used table salt since I was out of kosher salt


after forming, I put them in the fridge overnight.


I found that they barely rose at all in the water nor in the oven, so they are quite small and flat. Next time I will let them rise before refrigerating them (until they look almost like the size they should be when eaten)


I will also not stack two silpats in the fridge to avoid flattening them (I am short on fridge space right now)


Thanks for putting this recipe up and here's to future perfection!

MiserDD's picture
MiserDD

I have to disagree with the first step of the recipe "Dissolve the honey, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl, when fully dissolved add the yeast and stir until its dissolved (suspended)". 


When using dry yeast the yeast should always be rehydrated prior to adding any kind of sugar.  Adding the sugar first will stunt the rehydration of your yeast and give you a lower activity rate.


 Not a problem for those of you out there using yeast cakes or liquid yeast.

diziet's picture
diziet

I ordered some Food Grade lye, waited almost two weeks and when it arrived I saw that they'd sent Technical grade.  After reading some of the posts here I'm getting the impression that those terms don't mean a whole lot.  Can anyone tell me if Technical Grade would be safe for baking pretzels?  Thanks in advance

s_l_cal's picture
s_l_cal

I have used this recipe twice in the past few weeks.  I have made bagels a few times over the years.  This process definitely yields the best

I ever made.  20 minutes out of the oven, it was the best tasting bread I ever had.

 

bpezzell's picture
bpezzell

This article covers an alternative to using lye that I have found very effective over the past several months.  I've made over 30,000 bagels by hand during the past 4 years and this tip has given me the best results so far.

http://www.curiouscook.com/site/2010/09/achieving-a-distinct-flavor-without-going-to-extremes.html

rcrabtree's picture
rcrabtree

I am going to make a batch and bring them to work.  I have to get up early to make them and plan to have some plain ones and some topped ones.  I wonder how long I should cool them and how I should transport them?  The last time I tried to bring them somewhere they ended up a little soggy when I got there.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Transport in a paper bag, never, ever in plastic.  

You can bag them as soon as they're out of the oven, or allow maybe four or five minutes of cooling.  I'd get them there ASAP as the crust stays crispy for only so long.

Be forewarned, though, that if you are taking public transportation while carrying a bag of freshly baked, warm bagels, you'll make lots of new friends!

dosco's picture
dosco

I made a second batch of bagels (made the dough friday and boiled/baked this morning) ... I added 1 teaspoon of sodium hydroxide per quart of water.

 

The bagel crust smells and tastes like German soft pretzel.

 

I presume this indicates I used too much lye? The previous batch of bagels did not smell or taste of pretzels ...

 

Regards-
Dave

 

 

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I prefer a little lye in the boiling water along with some malt or molasses. The 3-4% by weight you'd use for pretzels is too much IMO, for two reasons: 1) you're not making pretzels, so a pretzel taste is not appropriate, and 2) the lye in boiling water is much more chemically active.

I've pretty much zeroed in on .75% lye by weight, that is 7.5g of lye per each kg (liter) of water. There is only the smallest hint of pretzel taste, while the crust  is noticeably more crackly than when no lye is used.

cheers,

gary