Oktoberfest is here!

Any fans? What are your favorite Oktoberfest specialties? Cook at home, or do you have a favorite dining venue? Please share…


Big ol’ soft pretzels. I’m almost out of baked baking soda that I’ve used the past couple years for the dip. I’m seriously considering trying food-grade lye this year.

Hey, you know what would make baking even more fun? The risk of serious chemical burns and blindness!!

But that dark brown glossy finish…



well, yes. As I have been doing. But while sodium carbonate is a marked improvement over sodium bicarbonate, lye is even better. I’m confident enough in my baking and my process that I’m fairly certain I can handle the raw soda (appropriately gloved) and I have a borosilicate dutch oven (remember Visions cookware from the 80’s?!) that should safely handle the dip without degrading.

Besides, the danger adds that little ein gewisses Etwas, nein?

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Those big pretzels have become ubiquitous at area taverns in my neck of the woods. Now for some Schnitzel and Sauerbraten, maybe a Wurst Plate with all the trimmings…

It’s odd, but over the years German restaurants have dwindled in the greater New York area, while Irish taverns have picked up the slack with their own Oktoberfest menus. What’s the relationship?

I’m going to guess… “beer.”

That may be part of the reason: German food goes especially well with beer…

Why is Oktoberfest in September?

gotta start baking/brewing so it’s all ready by next month.

I read that back in the 1800s, residents of Munich simply pushed it back to take advantage of longer days and warmer weather for celebrating. I’ll have another beer, please!


This just arrived. Real compressed pretzel salt should arrive tomorrow.

Let’s hope I don’t end up horribly scarred ala’ fight club.


You are certainly going to a lot of trouble. Hope it bakes up well. We had a satisfying wurst platter at a local Irish tavern recently…

First practice run done!! All my skin and mucous membranes are intact!

2 tsp Active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tblspn barley malt syrup
420g bread flour
1/2 cup pilsner-style beer (for the record, Pincushion from Device Brewing, Sacramento, CA)
2 tblspn unsalted butter
2 tsp fine sea salt.

mix dough 'til smooth and elastic. divide into 8 equal pieces (approx 90g ea). Preshape into balls. flatten and roll into 16 in. logs. then start at the first one and lengthen each into 24in tapered ropes.
Shape into pretzels and let proof for 30 min.


I should have rolled them out longer/thinner. Shaping still needs practice.

The dip

2 tablespoons lye crystals to 1 quart COLD water. USE GLOVES AND EYE PROTECTION! Use ONLY plastic with the 2 (HDPE, High Density Polyethylene) or 5 (PP, Polypropylene) recycle symbol on them or high quality stainless steel. You CAN use glass, but repeated/long term use will etch even pyrex, and make it prone shattering. Bothe the containers you see (2 qt shallow Cambro food storage container and the larger ‘disposable’ ziplock container are 5 (PP).

You want cold water because adding the lye to the water WILL warm it up significantly. Its dissolution is exothermic.

float each pretzel 10 seconds, flip, another 10 seconds, drain w/ stainless steel skimmer or slotted spoon and place back on tray. If eating that day, top w/ pretzel salt. If not, leave naked.

And finally, bake at 500 8 - 12 minutes 'til deep brown and delicious. Let cool on wire rack, like so:

Serve w/ mustard, cheese sauce, beer, sausages, etc.

for next day eating, dampen surface of naked pretzel VERY slightly. sprinkle salt. heat in toaster oven 350 for 2-5 minutes.


Those pretzels look great. I’ll take a half dozen with salt.


The salt, incidentally, is particular. It’s this:

compressed ‘pretzel salt’. If you can’t find this, Maldon will certainly do, but this still is saltier and crunchier than Maldon, and key to the proper ‘street vendor / fair’ - style pretzel vibe.


They are beautiful!

They look awesome!

What was the reasoning for using lye back in the day? Preservation? Also does the lye cook out because of the heat?

Just wanted to add it’s very important to add the lye TO THE water as you did, NOT the other way around. If you do the reverse there’s a chance the exothermic reaction will result in a caustic boil over