Yield: one dozen pretzel buns
For the preferment (biga):
For the pretzel dough:
To make the preferment:
Mix your biga preferment directly in the container you wish to allow it to rise in overnight. In this case, a quart-sized container works very well.
Combine flour, salt, yeast, and water the flour is fully hydrated (no dry patches).
Allow the biga preferment to sit, covered, for 12-16 hours before mixing the final pretzel dough.
To mix the final pretzel dough:
Set up your electric stand mixer for bread mixing: dough hook for a Kitchenaid and dough roller & scraper attachments for an Ankarsrum.
In this order: place water, flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and butter into the mixer and allow to mix on low speed for 3 minutes, until the ingredients have incorporated.
Follow with the biga preferment, breaking it up into smaller chunks before adding it to the mixture. Mix on low speed for another 5 minutes.
Allow the dough rise for 1 hour, covered. During this time, begin to build your fire in your wood-fired oven.
Remove it from the bowl and fold it to degas. Return it to the bowl, cover, and let it rise one more hour.
To scale/shape/finish the dough:
Using a scale, weigh out the dough into 100-gram portions. Round out the portions into balls.
Place the dough balls evenly onto a lined 18" x 13" sheet pan.
Place the dough into the fridge to set up for at least 30 minutes before handling further.
Use this time to prepare your prep area for the lye bath. Lye is highly caustic, and necessary precautions must be taken to prevent the material to eat through metal and porous surfaces. In the video, Chef Britt uses a FrogMat over a plastic-lined sheet pan to transfer her lye-dipped pretzels to the Clementi wood-fired oven.
To finish/bake the pretzels:
Create your lye solution by dissolving your sodium hydroxide (food-grade lye) into water that is placed in a glass bowl or other non-reactive container.
Using a nitrile-gloved hand, dip each bun into the lye solution, then transfer to a non-reactive surface (reference video).
Sprinkle the amount of salt preferred over the tops of the dipped buns.
Create the scores on the tops of the bun by cutting an X-shape (about 3/4-inch deep) using a pair of scissors.
Immediately bake on the wood-fired oven, with the deck's temperature reading 450-500°F. Allow to bake for 7-9 minutes, or until browned, turning as needed.
These pretzel buns are incredibly soft and pillowy, with that perfect deeply-flavored crust and made special with incredible salt. It pairs especially well with Chef Britt's Pub Cheese Recipe.