In the world of pretzels, there are true pretzels, then there are “pretzelized” bread products. The thing they have in common is a caustic bath.

Any type of dough can be given the caustic pretzel treatment and be called a pretzel even though the doughs can be very different.

“I don’t think there’s any hard and fast definition for a pretzel itself,” said Ken Zvoncheck, director of process technology, Reading Bakery Systems. “So, if we take a standard hamburger bun on a line and we insert this pretzel cooker and we dip or spray it to get that brown shiny shell and the flavor from the sodium hydroxide, does that qualify as a pretzel? I think most would say, ‘Yes it does.’ ”

But bread and bun doughs and laminated doughs like croissant require special considerations when given the pretzel treatment.

Bun dough has a higher moisture content and needs a pan to maintain its shape, Mr. Zvoncheck explained.

So, these doughs are often sprayed with caustic solution to provide the color, texture and flavor of a pretzel on top, while the rest of the bun remains untouched.

The same can be said for products like croissants. These doughs can then be cut in any desired shape and even twisted like a pretzel, said Matt Zielsdorf, director of bakery sales for Fritsch, a Multivac company. Fritsch robotic pretzel twisters can be used to create twisted buns.

“In Europe, lyed croissants and lyed biscuits are also on the rise,” he said.

Filled pretzels can also fall into the pretzelized product category. When using a Rheon coextruder, bakers can do an inline caustic bath through a converted fryer. Multiple coextruders can be synchronized to place products in a line across a fryer belt, said John Giacoio, vice president of sales, Rheon USA. Bakers can convert fryers to boilers for pretzel and bagel products.

“Not every consumer knows that to make a really good pretzel product, it just needs to be dipped in a hot caustic bath,” he said. “And who doesn’t like salt?”

This article is an excerpt from the July 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on pretzel technology, click here.