I was inspired after seeing a hot dog with a pretzel bun. I have the recipe pretty close to where I want it, but I'm not sure what to use as a wash. I tried egg whites so far and wasn't very happy.

I'm open to all suggestions as I'm not sure what I want or what the expectation of a pretzel hot dog bun should be. Also would you doing anything special with the boil? I'm just using the standard baking soda and water at the moment.

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    A lye solution is the "standard" wash for pretzels. Since food-grade lye can be difficult to come by, sodium carbonate (not to be confused with sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda) is sometimes used instead. But I understand that you are looking for something non-standard. – Chris Steinbach Sep 6 '12 at 22:01
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    It might be kind of helpful if you could clarify what's unsatisfactory about the baking soda and water, since a lot of people seem to be happy with it for home pretzel making. – Cascabel Sep 7 '12 at 4:34
  • @Jefromi I should perhaps have said "traditional" rather than "standard". And silence might have been a better option considering I've only ever sampled German Brezeln (which have a glossy, deep caramel glaze from the lye wash). – Chris Steinbach Sep 7 '12 at 5:37
  • @EDabM See cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/14466/… – TFD Sep 11 '12 at 23:43

If you want the hardcore, traditional pretzel flavor and crust, lye is really the only way to get it. You can dip it in a boiling bath of baking soda or washing soda for a minute or so. This can have the downside of giving the bun a really thick, leathery crust like a bagel. Alternately, to do a lye dip, you add one ounce of lye to one liter of water (add the lye to the water, not the water to the lye), stir and give it a few minutes to dissolve. The dough can be dipped in or brushed with the cold lye solution then baked. This will give you the really dark, thin, papery crust with that distinct pretzel flavor.

While the lye certainly isn't a chemical to be careless with, if you obey proper precautions (keep it off your skin, don't splash it, etc) it's nothing to be afraid of either.

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You could get a better crust on the pretzels if you used baked soda instead of baking soda and it's still safer than playing with lye.

As for the wash... egg whites aren't going to give you much flavor. Did you try a regular egg wash? It will give the best color and shine. For flavor, though, you could try clarified butter or some sort of oil. You could mix it with spices or herbs - I brush oil and minced garlic on dough and bake it like that with nice results.

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