*I heard that! *(US deep South colloquialism for you foreigners)
By far, the best use of baking soda is for making soft pretzels!
I’m originally from Philly (Philadelphia/Delaware Valley), so naturally I love soft pretzels (as well as Italian hoagies, cheese-steaks, scrapple, Ben Franklin … etc.). But, It’s hard to find anything close to Philly style soft pretzels where I’ve lived for the past 30+ years, so I make my own. It’s easy, you just need pizza dough and baking soda (and, of course, course salt and mustard).
Sure, you can make your own pizza dough. It’s not hard to do, but if you have a local grocery store that makes pizza dough well and fresh every day, like I have (Publix: a ball of fresh-made dough costs less than $3.00—enough to make an extra-large pizza, or 4 calzones, or 8 soft pretzels, or 10 bread sticks), why bother? Let them do the work and pay them a pittance for their effort.
Pretzels need a near-boiling alkaline bath for a minute before baking, or else you’ll end up with bread instead of pretzels. This recipe is pretty close to the one I use (except I go the extra mile and make them thinner and tie them into knots … or into animal heads …). Sprinkle with coarse salt and squirt on plenty of yellow mustard. That’s some good eatin.’ Pass a bag of them around at an Eagles or Phillies game and the fans may let you out of the stadium alive.
Bonus: Take that same supermarket pizza dough and make bread sticks superior to any Italian restaurant (do not bathe in baking soda for this recipe, or you’ll end up with pretzel sticks instead of bread sticks). Take your rested pizza dough and cut it into bread stick sized strips. Put ~3 tablespoons of olive oil (good, flavorful oil) in a Pyrex ~3 quart or so baking dish. Sprinkle (sparingly … I learned the hard way, don’t overdo it with the herbs and spices) basil, oregano, marjoram, garlic salt and black pepper into the oiled baking dish.
Pre-heat your oven to 425f. Cut the dough into ~1” wide strips and place into the baking dish. Spray a thin layer of olive oil onto the top of the strips and again sprinkle sparingly with more basil, oregano, marjoram, garlic salt and black pepper.
Put the dish into your oven (when it reaches 425 f) and take it out when the strips are dark golden brown (~20 minutes). Don’t forget to turn your oven off—you don’t want to burn down your house (I learned that lesson the hard way ).
At this point, I sprinkle Parmesan cheese onto my strips (my vegan daughters would castrate me if I attempted to sprinkle it on theirs). Serve with a dipping bowl of your favorite marinara sauce.
Trust me, with this recipe, you won’t be going to Olive Garden for bread sticks any more.