[Sca-cooks] Bakers borax again

Terry Decker t.d.decker at att.net
Tue Aug 21 12:51:12 PDT 2012

You are thinking of lye in a modern chemical context where the word commonly 
refers to sodium hydroxide but may also refer to potassium hydroxide.  The 
lye used in period German baking was hydrated from potash (potassium 
carbonate) which is produced by leaching hard wood ash then boiling the 
liquid to produce a residue (potash).  In solution, potash breaks down into 
potassium hydroxide, carbonic acid and carbon dioxide.  Modernly, the term 
potash has been used to describe a number of potassium compounds that are 
not within the original definition.

Thinking about the chemical breakdown and looking at a couple of references, 
David is probably correct that it is the alkaline solution that produces the 
glaze and darkens the crust.  If it is the base, then it shouldn't matter 
much whether one uses sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.

Still it sounds like some fun experiments to see just what just what kind of 
crust the different compunds produce.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Craig Daniel" <teucer at pobox.com>

> On Mon, Aug 20, 2012 at 10:29 PM, Terry Decker <t.d.decker at att.net> wrote:
>>> Googling for information on giving bread a glossy crust, I found a
>>> reference to using lye for Bavarian pretzels--and the comment that you 
>>> could
>>> get a similar effect by using baking soda! It sounds as though what 
>>> matters
>>> is that it's a base.
>>> --
>>> David Friedman
>> It may be the carbonate rather than just being a base.  Just one of those
>> things that needs some experimentation.
>> Bear
> Lye isn't a carbonate, though; it's NAoH.

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