Getting back to bases

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When Young Chefs was founded at Carleton College, we wrote and tested lesson plans through and independent study course. These original lessons have stood the test of time (or at least a couple years), but we haven’t stopped looking for new ways to bring science into the kitchen!

Currently underway is a lesson on homemade pretzels. Our Curriculum Coordinator, Laurel, got interested in this topic when she realized we don’t usually talk about using alkalines in the kitchen. Acidic ingredients are common and identifiable, but where are the bases? Are they even relevant for cooking?

For pretzels, the answer is absolutely yes! Pretzels are made by boiling dough in a basic solution (either lye or baking soda + water) before baking. The negative charges in the base hasten browning in the dough, and the sodium molecules deliver a distinct savory taste. This is where we get the color and flavor of a pretzel’s crust!

To try pretzel rolls at home, check out our recipe in the Kitchen Experiments [link] page of the For Students section. You can make the process quick and easy by starting with store-bought biscuit dough.  

Laurel turned her batch of pretzel rolls into a sandwich spread with mozzarella and roasted red pepper, curried chicken salad, and flank steak and arugula.

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