These are magnificent soft pretzels with a gorgeous, beautifully browned, crusty exterior, bejeweled with crystals of salt.
If you've researching making "real" Bavarian pretzels online, the one thing that every single article and blog post has in common is the insistence that you must, you have to, use a lye dip. And the one thing that every single person who reads this fun fact has in common is not having any lye around. Oh sure, a few folks who make their own soap might have some, but if you make your own soap, you're probably too busy to make pretzels anyway, like those two guys in the movie, who were really (Spoiler Alert!) the same guy.
Anyway, the good news is that we can get very close to the same effect using baking soda, as long as we bake it first, which is what raises the PH level closer to what we need. What happens is that this highly alkaline solution that we dip our dough in denatures the surface, which gives our pretzels their signature, dark brown appearance, unique flavor, and chewiness. Otherwise, the exact same dough will simply produce attractively knotted bread.
Speaking of highly alkaline solutions, I used a high ratio of baking soda to hot water, which means it might be a challenge to get it all mixed in. You can try using boiling water, which will make things easier, but if you make it way ahead of time, and let it sit, it might start to crystalize. So, you can bake the baking power ahead of time, but I'd wait until you're close to dipping time before you mix the solution. Other than that, this is a fairly easy recipe and simple procedure, and whether you enjoy these with a beer for Oktoberfest, or not, I really hope you give them a try soon. Enjoy!
You can use all-purpose flour instead of bread flour.
Make sure for the baking soda bath that your hot water is at 135 degrees F (57 degrees C).