The trick is looking for food-grade lye, making a 3% solution, and using precautions that author Noelle Carter discusses in her piece. So why bother at all? What does lye to do a pretzel that makes it all worth the trouble? Carter explains, "when the pretzel is dipped in the solution, the lye immediately begins to react with the surface of the dough, yellowing it. As it bakes, the color intensifies and turns a deep, glossy brown, and the pretzel taking on a crisp, chewy texture. The alkali is neutralized in the process, making the pretzel safe to eat."
So using lye results in a perfectly brown, chewy pretzels with a lightly crisp exterior. I'm curious about the method, but still not certain I'd bring lye (even if it is food-grade) into the kitchen, incredibly brown pretzel or not. Would you?
(Image: Emma Christensen)