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How Soft Pretzels Get Their Signature Golden Brown Color

Of course the most recognizable characteristic of a classic soft pretzel is its signature twisted shape. But no soft pretzel, whether twisted and topped with salt or pulled and filled with pizza toppings, would be quite right without the perfectly golden color attributed to this summertime snack. Traditionally, food-grade lye is used to give pretzels their signature color. However, baking soda makes a very fine substitute.

To achieve the perfectly golden pretzel, bring 8 cups of water to a simmer in a wide pot with high sides. When the water is simmering steadily, add 1/4 cup of baking soda. The water will foam up when baking soda is added. Stir mixture until baking soda is dissolved, then reduce heat until mixture is just still simmering.

Lower pretzels into the simmering baking soda bath, two to three at a time, or however many you can fit without overcrowding your pot. Simmer for 30 seconds, then flip and simmer for another 30 seconds. Carefully remove pretzels from baking soda bath, brush with beaten egg and bake!
The alkaline pH level of the baking soda bath gelatinizes the outside of the pretzel and prevents it from fully “springing” during baking. This will ensure a perfectly golden, chewy crust.