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Pretzel Bites

Courtesy Penguin Random House
Cook Time:
12 mins
Prep Time:
1 hr 30 mins
makes about 40 pretzel bites

Chef notes

I created this experiment as part of a food chemistry lecture for kids at my Fun with Chemistry Day Camp. It became an instant favorite because the kids could clearly see how the baking soda changed the appearance of the outside of the pretzel. It was the inspiration for my cookbook!

Technique tip: Carefully dip the pretzel bites into the baking soda solution! Flip them over after 15 seconds, and then use a spider strainer to remove them from the water.

Swap option: Can repeat the experiment using food-grade lye instead of baking soda.


  • cups water, plus 10 cups for Experiment B
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup coarse salt



Heat the water to about 110 F-115 F. Put it in the small bowl. Add the sugar and salt. Stir the solution.


Add the active dry yeast. It will sit on the top of the mixture. Cover with a dish towel. Set aside for 5 minutes.


Stir together the flour and melted butter in a mixing bowl. Slowly add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and form a ball of dough.


Remove the dough from the bowl and knead by hand for 4-5 minutes (or use an electric mixer with a dough hook).


Put the dough in a lightly greased mixing bowl. Cover with the dish towel and store it in a warm place until the dough doubles in size (about an hour).


Heat the oven to 450 F.


Prepare a baking sheet (e.g. spray with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper)


Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and roll into long ropes. Cut the ropes into 1- to 1½-inch pieces and roll each chunk of dough into a ball.

Experiment A

a. Place 20 pretzel bites on a baking sheet(s).

b. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

c. Bake for about 12 minutes (or until golden brown).

d. Remove from the oven and inspect the appearance of the pretzel.

Experiment B

a. Add ½ cup of baking soda into a large pot that contains 10 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil.

b. Carefully, use tongs or a spider strainer to dip 10 pretzel bites into the pot for about 15 seconds, flip over and then dip for another 15 seconds.

c. Repeat step b with 10 more pretzel bites.

d. Remove the pretzel bites from the boiling mixture and place on a baking sheet.

e. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

f. Bake for about 12 minutes (or until golden brown).

g. Remove from the oven and inspect the appearance of the pretzel.