There is nothing–nothing–like the flavor of Traditional Pretzel Buns. The dough itself is a fairly standard, firm, yeast dough: a bit of melted butter for richness and some unrefined liquid sugar (malt extract or I use molasses) to keep the yeast happy, and nothing else surprising. What sets a pretzel bun apart from other buns is the surface treatment. Before baking, the shaped dough gets a one-to-two minute dunk in a 3% lye solution (1000g water with 30g food-grade lye dissolved in it) before baking. (So, no jumping straight to the recipe, y’all. You need to read the list of precautions.) I tried the lye bath a couple of ways–dunking the balls directly after shaping, then allowing them to rise, slashing and baking, and allowing them to rise before getting the alkali bath, then slashing and baking. The finished rolls didn’t seem appreciably different, either outside or inside, and they were certainly more fragile once risen. For this reason, I vote you give your buns a bath directly after shaping and then let them rise before slashing and baking. The slashing isn’t strictly necessary, but it is traditional, can often help the buns rise evenly and keep the crust from splitting, and the contrast of the creamy white interior against the burnished brown crust is striking.
I made pretzel buns using a baking soda wash for my Got To Be NC Burgers, and this is exactly the same recipe for the dough as I used for those buns. The only difference is they get a dip in room temperature “lye water” as opposed to a boiling baking soda bath. Enjoy these traditional pretzel buns as a base for your favorite deli sandwiches or of course as burger buns. See the subtle difference in the finished buns? Yeah, the lye bath is definitely the way to go. Read on for precautions so you don’t hurt yourself when working with lye.
Pretzel buns dipped in a boiling baking soda solution before baking.
Pretzel buns dipped in a room-temperature lye solution before baking.