Before Little Caesar’s burst on to the scene with their Pretzel Pizza, Auntie Anne’s was already making Pepperoni Pretzels way before you could say “Hot and Ready.” That’s where I initially got the idea for pizza on a pretzel crust. I talked about it in my Caramel Apple Crisp Braid Recipe and posted a photo of my initial success. Don’t ask me how I got a whole pizza crust covered with the cold baking soda solution. I’ve no idea now! I’m sure I struggled with it.
As I experimented more with homemade pretzel dough and pretzel buns, I discovered signature pretzel taste was more present in a boiling baking soda bath.
Did you know that to get a truly authentic pretzel crust and taste, baker’s use a lye bath. Lye is a chemical, a.k.a. sodium hydroxide and can burn your skin off if not protected while working with it. It can even dissolve glass! Dude, if it burns off my skin, why would I want to ingest it?
“Lye can be toxic in high concentrations, but is also commonly used for curing foods like lutefisk. Most bakers use food-grade lye, which is the chemical equivalent of drain cleaner, but is produced and packaged in a clean, regulated way.” ( Source: The Salt ) Hmm, drain cleaner packaged in a clean, regulated way. <Looks up to the ceiling. Thinking…thinking.> Uh, No!
Enter, baking soda bath. Safe for the skin and gastrointestinal tract. Sign me up! Obviously, I wasn’t throwing a whole pizza dough in a vat of boiling soda ash, so I began making smaller 7″ pies. The simmering bath is what gives the dough that chewy soft resistance when you bite in. It also allows the pretzel to brown nicely in the oven.
Check out the puffed buttery brown edges sprinkled with sea salt, just begging to be eaten. Just look at the steamy pizza in all it’s glory, oozing with melted mozzarella and crispy pepperoni on a soft pretzel. Does it really get any better than that?
It’s easy to make too. I got home Friday night after work about 5:45 pm and my pretzel dough was resting nicely under a towel on the warm stove precisely at 6:11 pm. I poured myself a glass of wine and did a few small preparations until the dough was ready to be rolled into personal pies.
At 7 pm I was cutting and measuring the dough on a scale into 4 equal pieces and I rolled them out. I dropped them in the simmering soda bath. Brushed them with butter, salted the edges, and pre baked the pretzel dough for a few minutes. I then put the toppings on and put them back in the oven to finish off. Snapped a few photos and by 8 pm we were eating. Not bad for a start to finish dough from scratch. And it certainly is a nice change up from regular pizza dough.
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1¼ cup whole milk (can substitute low fat if desired or use water if lactose intolerant)
- ⅓ cup baking soda
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Pizza sauce
- Mozzarella cheese
- *additional toppings of your liking
- In a small glass container empty in package of yeast and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar.
- Warm ¼ cup milk to 110 degrees and pour over mixture.
- Lightly stir and set aside for 10 minutes to activate.
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer or bowl, add flour, remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
- Stir well with a fork.
- When yeast has activated add to flour mixture and add 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
- Attach the dough hook.
- Warm 1 cup milk to 100 degrees or what feels like warm bathwater when you put a finger in.
- Pour in ½ of milk and turn mixture on low.
- Slowly add the remaining milk as the dough mixes. You may not need all of the milk.
- You want the dough to pull away from the sides and not have dry mixture in the bottom of the bowl.
- If you added all the milk you may need to add more in tiny increments until you get the desired consistency. If the dough looks too wet add small increments of flour.
- Let the dough knead on low for about 6 minutes, rotating the dough off the hook after 3 minutes and turning opposite end down to evenly knead the dough.
- You can knead the dough by hand as well.
- When the dough looks smooth and doesn't stick to your fingers it's ready to be transferred to a glass or ceramic bowl to rise.
- Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter and lightly cover your dough in butter so it doesn't dry out or stick to bowl. Cover with a warm towel and place in a warm area free of drafts.
- Preheat oven to 425 and place baking stones on top and bottom rack if you own them. Otherwise just preheat as normal.
- After your dough rises for an hour, lightly punch down.
- Measure total weight of dough on a kitchen scale or eyeball it and evenly divide into 4 pieces of dough.
- You may need some light flour for dusting, but mine wasn't tacky or sticky and I didn't need extra flour for rolling.
- Meanwhile, place a large stock pot or soup pot filled with water on stove and bring to a boil.
- On a piece of parchment paper bigger than 7", roll the dough out to 7" in diameter. Continue rolling remaining dough separately on parchment paper.
- Water should be boiling at this point.
- Turn the water down to a medium simmer and slowly pour in the ⅓ cup baking soda. It will sizzle and bubble so be extremely careful.Pour a little at a time.
- Carefully drop one 7" pie crust in the pot and let simmer for each side 25 seconds. Remove and place on paper towel to drain and slightly cool. Pat any excess water off.
- Continue as above with remaining dough discs.
- Take remainder of melted butter and brush on the top of the dough and edges only.
- Sprinkle the edges lightly with sea salt or pretzel salt.
- Place in 425 degree oven and place two discs on each stone and bake for roughly 10 minutes, rotating stones on top and bottom oven shelf halfway through.
- When dough is between a golden and dark brown (not burnt) remove stones from the oven.
- Remove pretzel crusts from the stone so they don't continue to bake.
- Turn oven down to 350 degrees.
- Add sauce and assemble toppings on crust.
- Place all four pizzas back in oven on top oven shelf. No pan needed.
- Continue to cook about 5-6 minutes until the cheese begins to melt.
- The last few minutes turn the oven to broil to crisp up your pepperoni and toppings. Keep a watchful eye on the pizza so as not to burn.
- Remove, slice and enjoy.