The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Lye bath questions for large pretzels batches

oregoncrepe's picture

Lye bath questions for large pretzels batches


My first post, so I don't know if this should be a topic or on the pretzel thread, but here goes:

Our pretzels, sticks and buns have caught one with a couple of brewery customers so we're making 200-300 sticks and 3-8 dozen pretzel buns at a time.

We use Hamelmanns recipe, make the buns and sticks after the first rise and then freeze them, They go from the freezer into the lye, salt, and then we fire them  As you can see they have plenty of oven spring and the flavor, well, that's why we are making so many :)

I'd appreciate advice on two things:

1. I've never read where the lye solution needs to be refreshed, but  as you can see from this photo a pretzel bun at the start of a batch (on the left) and at the end (on the right) look much different -- I had to give 4 dz to the local mission and start over.  

Does anyone have a rule of thumb on how much of a 4% is needed for a certain number of pretzels?  I used a 1/2 hotel pan (about 5.5 liters)   Any ideas on what happens to the lye? 

2.  Different recipes and bakers use a hot bath, some a boiling bath of lye, and some use a cold water bath.  Any thoughts?  We've tried cold, starting at 140F, and hot holding the bath.  Since we have this mottling problem at the same  time, apparently due to the 'wearing out' of the lye bath,  we have not been able to make any tests about hot or cold baths.

Thanks in advance for your help.


oregoncrepe's picture

i guess from the zero posts that not many have an opinion here, so here are some results that my be of use to others.

First,  I reviewed my concentration and found that my lye was not 4% but something less than that, as I did not accurately measure the water in the / hotel pan.  So I now weigh (in Kg) the water bath and add 40g/ of NaOH to 1 Kg of water.  (40/1000 = 4%)

Second,  I started with hot tap water but don't worry about keeping it hot. BTW, these go directly from the freezer to the lye bath and then to the oven.

Third,  I bumped up the temp - i noticed that when I load the convection oven (set at 410F) with 4 sheet pans the temp would drop to about 370F, so now I start at 450 for 2 minutes and then go to 410F.

As you can see from the linked picture they results are pretty good.  No more of the mottling.

I'll keep posting as i learn more -- I've gotten a lot of good advice on this site, hope this helps someone else.

makebreadnet's picture

Well done!  So you can make a whole batch now without 'refreshing' the solution? 

oregoncrepe's picture

yes,  I put a 1/2 hotel pan on the induction burner and 4000g of water, 160g og lye and can make about 250 sticjks and 5 dz buns before I run dry --  the last ones look as good as the first.   my pics are to big to upload but you can see them on our FB page or website. 


Happy new year.


theneonbaker's picture

 After lots of frustration trying to find food grade lye  I ran across a different way of  making pretzel bath and it’s way better than lye.

 Yes I realize everyone’s going to tell me I’m completely crazy but I swear it’s better.

i start with baked baking soda (baking soda baked for 1 hr on 400 degrees than cooled and stored at room temp)  and I use roughly around a quarter of a cup to every 1 cup of water.   I normally make 8 cups at a time.  I add about a cup and a half of brown sugar, 3/4 or so cups of  malted milk powder,  and about a tablespoon of salt.  I boiled this until it’s just condensed  enough to look very slightly thicker than water.   When I making pretzels I put it on the stove and boil it in mixed everything up and usually let it cool slightly and get my pretzels when it’s still very warm.   I don’t normally have to do is in more than 10 or 15 seconds at the most and I end up with a color that is in a dark mahogany range but not as dark as a lye bath.  This imparts way more flavor than that lye does And  it seals in the moisture so they can actually feed and three or four days later and taste just exactly is good.   normally bake my naked let them cool and store them in the refrigerator  until I’m ready to eat them.  From there I checked them in the microwave for 10 seconds at the most and add butter and salt on top of them and you can’t even tell that they were made a couple of days ago they taste exactly the same as  they would straight out of the oven.   I reuse the water 4 or 5 times. Normally every time I use it I end up adding a little bit of water to it right in the beginning to account for the water loss from using it prior.  I store it into the ball jars in the fridge and just pull it out and boil it when I need it and put it right back in and refrigerated afterwards.  It works perfectly every time and makes pretzels that taste so much better than lye pretzels.

jlarag's picture

Hi... a couple of questions:

1. When you say you make 8 cups at a time I suppose you're referring to just the water and baking soda mix right? the other ingredients go into that ?

2. When you say you reuse the water 4-5 times... how many pretzels does it serve?