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Pretzel Salt needs a 'myth-buster'!

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copyu's picture
copyu

Pretzel Salt needs a 'myth-buster'!

Life is too short to search the entire internet (or even the entire content of TFL) for an answer to the question: "What IS pretzel salt?" [Yeah, I know...'It's the salt you put on pretzels...Haw-haw-haw!'...'It's sodium chloride that sits on a pretzel...' Har-de-har-har!]

People are using this expression on thousands [millions(?)] of blogs around the world, but there doesn't appear to be a clear 'definition' of what it means. (Go to amazon.com and see what the customers say about the 'pretzel salt' available there..."Fraud!" "Fake!" etc...) I have seen one plausible 'partial definition' that suggests: "...it's a special coarse salt made from finely-ground salt that [somehow] doesn't absorb as much moisture as regular salt(s)..." Now, I KNOW I've seen something like that on some of the pretzels I've eaten. It's large-grained, white and opaque...but I suppose the real question is: How the heck do you make that? Or how do the people who sell it, make it?

I'm sure I saw a good description and explanation somewhere and I have a feeling it was here on TFL. Any suggestions? Links? That would be much appreciated!

Thank you for any help,

copyu   

 

 

robotslave's picture
robotslave

http://www.mortonsalt.com/products/industrial/rockPrezsalt.html

For that product, the short answer is "it's mined and screened."  

http://www.cargill.com/salt/products/food-manufacturing/cargill-pretzel-salts/index.jsp

And for those, "It's mined, but by desolving/evaporation.  Then processed."

There are other brands of it out there, and I suspect some are produced differently; I'm sure I'm not the only one who's noticed that there's quite a variety of white, large-grained salt being used by soft pretzel vendors.  

Those "FAKE!!" comments are most likely from people who are used to seeing only one brand or type in their region.

copyu's picture
copyu

That's another reason why I posted the question...I've read a few times that you should NEVER use kosher salt or any other 'regular' salt on pretzels. The self-professed "pundits/pandits" reckon it's OK for salt bagels, but not for pretzels! [???]

Confusion reigns!

Thank you,

copyu

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

pretzel salt wax

and see what you get...   :)

edit:  the old links don't work.  Sorry.  I have some if you want a picture.  no brand name.

copyu's picture
copyu

I'd just read that 'wax' post (food-grade-carnauba, nicht wahr?) before deciding to post my query. 

That's what got me thinking about this issue. When I was a kid in NY, the pretzels were often coated with something that was 'not quite' like any of the the salt you could buy in supermarkets. Many of the pretzel vendors were using kosher salt, as well, however...they were all great, but they were always freshly-made and barely cool before sold. They lasted less than ten minutes after the purchase...I was wondering if there really is such a thing as 'pretzel salt' that goes back to the 50's...or if it was just something developed for the modern age of pretzels 'heated while you wait'...;-)

Thank you, Mini,

copyu 

ds99302's picture
ds99302

I always just use Kosher salt.  It's always worked for me.

copyu's picture
copyu

and the only stuff I've ever used, but there are also many people who say to absolutely avoid it for pretzels.

I'm pretty confident that I know what 'kosher salt' is (but even that is a pretty contentious issue out on the internet!) Some people will tell you it HAS TO BE FLAKY instead of in large crystals. Some people say the salt has nothing at all to do with 'kashrut' (Jewish dietary law) but the specifications are only for how to make home-killed meats 'kosher'...that's an easy one to search out, though...I'm wondering what the 'real story' is about pretzel salt.

I read something quite plausible, but with no real scientific explanation...we've all seen salt do the "puddling" trick by being so 'hygroscopic' that it absorbs moisture from the surrounding air. Some people say KS is so hygroscopic that it's 'deliquescent', meaning it dissolves completely in the moisture it absorbs from the air...I don't know about that, but it could be that flaky variety of KS is prone to absorbing too much moisture because of its high surface area...What do you think?

Best,

copyu     

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

KAF has what you are looking for--just enter "pretzel salt" in their search box. Not too expensive if you don't count shipping costs.

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

If you are eating Hanover hard pretzels you are used to seeing screened rock salt that is controlled within some fairly tight size limits.

If you are eating soft pretzels, you are probably getting a compressed salt product that is opaque, not in cubic crystal form, and of a lower density than the screened rock salt and thus less "salty".  It is compressed so that it melts more slowly than the powder from which it is made (think pearl sugar or prilled urea fertilizer).  The manufacturer can produce a uniform size with a tight size distribution from a very fine starting material (probably with less waste than with screened crushed salt though that is not a likely reason).

For a pretzel you don't want to use either kosher salt or a granulated salt since they will dissolve completely (and thus disappear) in the surface moisure of the pretzel before it gets baked - the surface area to volume ratio is too high in both cases.

ds99302's picture
ds99302

I've never had a problem with Kosher salt dissolving and disappearing into the pretzel. 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

I have used it too but it is a balance between getting the salt to stick and having it dissolve in whatever moisture you have on the surface.  Too dry and it doesn't stick; too wet and you can wind up with "white spots" on the surface of your pretzel that look more like blotches than salt crystals, and the flavor is not as intense either. I much prefer the "pretzel salt". Of course you always have the challenge of applying it uniformly.

copyu's picture
copyu

You've confirmed my hypothesis about the "kosher salt" anyway. I can't buy the 'flaky' type, but virtually all of the salt I buy is "kosher" in the technical sense...The exception is the contents of a tiny glass container of iodized "table salt" (which we don't really use at home for anything.) We always grind coarse sea salt or various types of natural rock salt for table use...pink, black, grey or white...whatever the color! I have a couple of types of "kosher-certified" salt for making pickles, but these are medium to quite coarse near-cubic crystals, not the flaky type, which would probably be used preferentially by Jewish butchers.

How does the hypothesis that: "...grey sea salt is already quite 'moist' so it won't absorb as much moisture from the air or your dough" sound? I use this all the time for my baking, anyway. Should I try this, since 'pretzel salt' seems to live such a long distance away from Japan?

Thanks a lot!

copyu

 

 

 

Doc.Dough's picture
Doc.Dough

IMHO once salt is dissolved, salt is salt.  Impure salt is salt with impurities.  If you are boiling pasta it doesn't make any difference. When it goes on the surface of food and remains as an identifiable solid (pretzels, bagels, steak, melon, ...) different types of salt produce different taste and feel (crunchiness) sensations when you eat it, and the accompanying minerals (both naturally occuring and additives) can enhance the effect.

Gray salt is moist because they don't dry it out. It is actually in equilibrium with the moisture it contains. I don't think it would do anything to delay or inhibit further dissolution. And I suspect that you will get the best (most uniform) distribution of salt on your pretzels if you play around with ground/crushed and screened salt of various sizes, and shakers with various sizes and number of holes.  If you want to be fancy, get a Misto sprayer (or equivalent) and lightly mist the pretzels (with water or malt syrup) a few seconds before you sprinkle the salt on them.  Do a batch in three parts, with waiting periods of 10 sec, 30 sec, and 120 sec.  Then pick the one you like best as a new baseline.  Keep iterating until you get it the way you like it.

Janknitz's picture
Janknitz

always seems to melt into the pretzel's surface IMHO (Blue Diamond Kosher salt is what I use).  I like the salt to sit on the surface of the pretzel and give it a pleasant, salty--but not too salty--crunch (I salt sparingly).  I've also tried grinding some big Sel De Mer sea salt crystals, but those were unpleasantly hard on the pretzel's surface and--well--just too salty!  (I know, I know!).

Salt specifically marketed as "pretzel" salt is the familliar texture and flavor I'm going for, so it's worth buying the specific salt for that purpose (especially if it can be found locally instead of paying shipping costs!). 

ds99302's picture
ds99302

The key is to wait for the pretzels to dry a little bit when you take them out of the water before sprinkling on the salt.  Don't sprinkle salt on a sopping wet pretzel.   But don't wait until they're completely dry either.  As long as the dough doesn't form a skin the salt will stick.  Next, get them into the oven immediately after sprinkling on the salt.

copyu's picture
copyu

to find pretzel salt locally. Very few Japanese bake anything at home, so the market would be "tiny squared" and therefore not worth the trouble of importing it, even for the baking specialist shops. 

I'll try my nephew in Germany, who's arranging some other baking goods for me...my fingers are crossed!

Best,

copyu

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

A big fancy import supermarket there should presumably have a section of imported salts including flaked, rock salt, etc.; they do here in Taiwan, and I doubt we have better selection than you do there. I can find rock and flaked here but just use the flaked salt, and sprinkle it on just after boiling the pretzels, while they're still wet and on the wire racks before transferring them to the oven. Works fine.

Maybe ask for Hana no shio (Japanese flaked salt) and see if that's what you want? Or contact information@suzusho.co.jp and ask where Maldon flaked sea salt is available.  

copyu's picture
copyu

With respect to your first sentence, only: you have to remember that Japan has a population with a very narrow dietary range and, for every lone expat isolated somewhere in the archipelago, there are 99 Japanese customers who, naturally, drive the market. (It's more like 49 locals for every expat in Taiwan...I just checked the stats) so you guys, with a much smaller population, are at least twice as cosmopolitan as we are!    ;-)  I think I'd take my chances shopping in a Taiwanese supermarket over a Japanese 'import shop' any day. Every country (including several 'developing countries') I've ever visited has much better supermarkets than anything in Japan.

Life is better here since CostCo arrived, that's for sure, but there are still problems with the whole Japanese food industry. I've seen US$4.00 bags of Thai rice in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Singapore that cost over US$30.00 here, thanks to the 780% tariff on rice. (Tariffs on other foodstuffs go up as high as a scandalous 1,050%!)  You can imagine that if there isn't at least a 5-10% window of opportunity to sell an item, no-one here is ever going to risk importing it. I just wish one of those "healthy-living" TV shows that the Japanese depend on to know what they should eat, would do a program on German rye bread, gravy or Malaysian curry. It worked for blueberries, cocoa, red wine...and the list goes on...On a positive note, Japan's rate of tax on alcohol is among the lowest in the world, so the finest Scotch Whiskey is cheaper here than in Scotland! Hoorah!

Thanks, Dragonbones; sorry for 'venting'!

copyu

 

 

 

Dragonbones's picture
Dragonbones

Hi copyu, no prob, we all need to rant now and then!  :)  BTW, are you in Tokyo ? (just curious)  Are you able to shop online in Japanese? One thing I've discovered here in Taibei is that if you search online (especially if you add local language ability) you can find just about anything, and shipping within Asia is usually cheap. Good luck!

copyu's picture
copyu

Yeah, I work in Tokyo and live a couple of train-stops from Tokyo's Kita-ku (North Ward) in Saitama. Your advice is most welcome.

I can handle reading Nihon-go OK and my wife is Japanese. I use online shopping a lot. I use Rakuten and amazon.co.jp for basic (and some exotic) stuff. Indian food stores here are a life-line and several do online business. The Foreign Buyers' Club is WAY pricey, but they do have the odd bit of US and Brit 'unobtainium' from time to time. (My old nickname, a year or two after I came here was 'the shopmeister' because I could always tell other expats where to buy what they needed...with options and price guidelines...) Tak-kyu-bin or parcel delivery is very cheap and efficient here, compared with the postal service.

However, as I said before, the Japanese diet is considerably 'narrower' than the rest of the world's and that's not going to change soon...sauces and seasonings here revolve around soy sauce, vinegar, sake, sugar, mirin, ichimi and shichimi, plus the ubiquitous Japanese mayonnaise, tomato ketchup and black pepper. Most shops will also sell Chinese 5-spice, and chilli or plain sesame oil for the adventurous...

Cooking facilities in the average home are 'basic', to put it as politely as possible, so most people don't cook a lot. Cheap 'eat-in' and cheap 'take-out' is standard daily fare for many millions of people here; delivered meals (I mean sushi, or Japanese banquets, not pizza!) are usually for 'special occasions'. The convenience stores will microwave your take-out for you and many supermarkets have the microwave ovens for public use just outside the checkouts...you get the idea, I'm sure...(I'm ranting again! <GRRR!>) Apologies!

Best wishes and thanks,

copyu         

    

jcking's picture
jcking

Wouldn't it be easier to put the pretzel on the salt? More practical. It would hit the tongue first. I'm not big on presentation. {:¢))

Jim

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

If you are eating soft pretzels, you are probably getting a compressed salt product that is opaque, not in cubic crystal form, and of a lower density than the screened rock salt and thus less "salty".  It is compressed so that it melts more slowly than the powder from which it is made (think pearl sugar or prilled urea fertilizer). 

So now the question is...  How to make your own.  There is a standard trick to coloring sugar crystals:  put sugar in jar, add a few drops of food dye, put on the lid and shake like crazy.  Spread out to dry if desired.    Why can't the same principle be applied here?  Only might be good to run salt thru the processor first to powder it (or maybe not.)  Theoretically, one could start out with say 50 g salt in a jar, add a drop or two of water, shake like crazy and add a little powdered salt and shake again to coat.   Add more dry salt if needed and then spread out the salt on parchment to dry.  If the room humidity is high, dry in the oven.   If the salt won't clump, then maybe there is an ingredient that glues the salt together, a little starch or something similar.   

Funny thing is, I pick the salt off my pretzels so when I purchased frozen pretzels (gasp!) it comes with a package of pretzel salt.  "mist the dough, sprinkle, bake"   I have been collecting the salt into a plastic shaker with 6mm holes on top (left over spice shaker) with a screw top to keep out moisture and make using it easier.  The salt is not as hard as crystals would be and breaks up easily when biting.   So no "biting a stone" effect.  

Mini

copyu's picture
copyu

I have to say, I really like the way you people think!

Sincerely,

copyu

jcking's picture
jcking

Dude;

Mini and I are so far outside the box (of salt) we need to contact NASA when returning to Terra Firma. Got Air?

Jim

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

:)  

jcking's picture
jcking

And here I thought you just liked getting high. {:=))

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

seriously...   there is more than one way to clump salt.  

jcking's picture
jcking

In Harold McGee, food scientist, he mentions anti-caking additives to include: humectants, aluminum and silicon compounds of sodium and calcium, silicon dioxide -- the material of glass and ceramics -- and magnesium carbonate. Pretzel salts are not specifically mentioned.
Jim

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

I was thinking about silicon and aluminum, mostly clay and dirt, and that even in mud on the banks of the Dead Sea, salt will make beautiful clear cubed crystals.  I've seen them and held them in my hands.  The crystal formation is so tight that it pushes impurities out of the matrix.  So the idea of mixing with mud is out (not mentioning the obvious reasons.)   We need an impurity (or caking additive) that is both edible and holds broken crystal together without encouraging typical salt crystals to grow.  It can also be tasteless or with a hint of say... malt?   A few drops of malt syrup and water might be the concoction needed.   It must be enough for simple humidity will warrant the inclusion of rice in our salt shakers.  Does the pizza salt package offer any suggestions?

Mini

jcking's picture
jcking

Mini, did you have a brain bubble?

As for me; I've never purchased Pretzel salt. Such as yourself, over the years I've collect the salt from the frozen pretzel packs. Now that I make my own pretzels, I'm using the old salt. I use the Reinhart version. Don't know what I'll do when I run out. :-(

If anyone out there has package info for Pretzel/Pizza [ :-) ] salt please chime in.

Fornituri te salutant!
(Those who are about to bake salute you!)

Jim

copyu's picture
copyu

I'd like to declare this topic closed (just for my own part as the original poster.) However, I should say that I think Doc has 'hit the nail on the head'. It seems that the "pretzel salt" concept is not 100% "mythical". But I'd suggest you don't just believe whatever  the 'pretzel salt retailers' tell you...they don't agree with each other very well.

There appears to be a rather simple product made from very pure and very finely-pulverized cooking/table salt that has been compressed to make a less-dense and, therefore, 'less-salty' item that crushes or 'flakes' in quite a regular way...which would make it very good for pretzels. This production process may also be the reason why it doesn't absorb moisture so readily...the crystalline structure has been broken down so totally, that there are no 'crystals' left to dissolve! Also, because of its lighter structure, it won't give the 'biting a rock' sensation.   

As Doc said (and we all know, I hope!) that "salt is salt". The usual "hygroscopic" action, removing moisture from the dough (or the dipping or boiling solution) would just make these little 'lumps' of NaCl stick better to the pretzel's surface. Over a day or two, the so-called 'crystals' of salt would absorb atmospheric moisture as well and dissolve and shrink a bit, yet still remain visible (because they'd still be white.) Although somewhat 'rounded', they wouldn't actually 'disappear' completely...unlike the truly crystalline salt you usually buy in the store.

But pretzels don't last a couple of days, or even one day, if they're good enough, so a non-issue for most of us, I suspect...if I get German Brezelsalz from my nephew, I'll be happy; and if not, I'll proceed with whatever is on hand and still be happy!      

Sincere thanks to all who contributed to this thread. I don't know what I'd do without you guys thinking out loud for me on TFL, sometimes. Thanks a lot, folks!    

^_^ 

copyu