Lido Deck Test Kitchen: A Tale of Two Breads

June 15, 2011 | By | 8 Comments

I’m going on my first cruise — a weeklong Bermuda sailing aboard Norwegian Dawn — in a few short months and have, like most Cruise Critic members, been searching the boards for relevant information. While perusing the NCL forum, I discovered the existence of a somewhat cultlike favorite — the pretzel roll.
Intrigued, I emailed the cruise line to see if someone could track down the recipe for me. I just had to know what was so special about this bread — and I ended up with a recipe straight from NCL’s bakery. Encouraged by its seeming simplicity, I decided rather than just sharing the recipe on the Lido Deck, I was going to try my hand at making a batch and posting the results.
There were only a few issues:
  • The recipe yielded 36 rolls, and there was no way I was keeping three dozen of these reputedly addictive bad boys in my home.
  • All of the amounts were in metric measurements, so I would have to convert everything.
  • NCL uses two commercial ingredients — bread improver and sodium hydroxide pellets — neither of which I had the time to track down.
  • Being an avid baker I assumed that I would be able to skirt each of these issues and whip up something that at least resembled NCL’s famous rolls. After converting all of the amounts, using an online “recipe adjuster,” I researched the commercial ingredients and found that “bread improver” is usually eliminated in home baking, and that I could just feed the yeast with a bit of sugar. Finally, I discovered that baking soda is commonly used in lieu of sodium hydroxide pellets. Although the conversions from metric to U.S. were tricky — there were a lot of small fractions, and I’m not exactly a math wiz — I felt confident.
    Armed with my modifications, I set about measuring and mixing and beating. Within 25 minutes I had a bread dough, so I walked away and let it rise. When I returned, it crossed my mind that it looked like way more dough than I would need for a dozen rolls, but I pressed on. I set my oven temp and began pulling handfuls of dough to form into the “dinner roll” shape I’d seen in photos. Then I dipped each ball in the sodium hydroxide solution (in my case, baking soda solution).
    Ack! The dough turned into a soggy mess — it lost any semblance of a shape. I took a deep breath.
    Okay, no sweat. Rather than using the dip method, I wet my hands with the solution before forming each roll. But I soon realized that the dough balls were spreading out on the cookie sheet and were dangerously close to melding into a single wad.
    I quickly reshaped each ball, sprinkled them with coarse sea salt and shoved them into the oven. I said a prayer and let them bake for 20 minutes. Returning to the kitchen I found that the leftover dough had continued to grow … and grow … and grow. Figuring that my conversions were off, I shrugged and checked the oven.
    The rolls weren’t really round, but they looked like bread. However, their surface was pale and had barely browned, so I left them in a bit longer. Five minutes later, they still didn’t look pretzel-ish. Another five minutes, and they were golden and smelled delicious, but hadn’t morphed into anything pretzel-like. In any case, I deemed them done. While my endeavor was definitely an epic NCL pretzel roll fail, it wasn’t a total failure. In fact, the rolls were so yummy that I chucked the remaining ever-growing “Blob”-like dough into the freezer for future dinner roll needs. I guess I’ll just have to wait for my cruise (and daydream about pretzely goodness) to find out what all the fuss is about.
    Join other pretzel roll fanatics on the Cruise Critic forums.
    Get NCL’s original recipe and our modified version here.
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      8 Responses to “Lido Deck Test Kitchen: A Tale of Two Breads”

      1. Ann Mack
        June 15th, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

        You are much braver than I. So happy that they turned into something you enjoy anyway. I re-created the Spaghetti Carbonara we had on the Caribbean Princess and although no where near as yummy as the chef’s, it was definitely a do-again and we ate it all. You will encounter SO many dishes you will want again once you return home. Hopefully you’re a better cook than I!

      2. Cecilia
        June 15th, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

        I love the NCL pretzel rolls! Good for you for attempting them but you wont know the real happiness of the pretzel roll until you have one on the ship.

      3. Lee
        June 15th, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

        As i read what you tried to do… I quickly saw several mistakes that you made… first of all, when you need sugar to feed the yeast — use REAL sugar, not honey. Works much better and easier for the yeast to do its job. Secondly,it’s always best to do a double rise, that is, let your dough rise once, punch it down, form the shapes, then let rise again. Also, you can’t just let your dough sit and continue to rise, because it will if you don’t use it all immediately or chill it (to slow down the fermentation). That’s why the directions say 75% proofing.

        But, probably your BIGGEST mistake… you didn’t BOIL the rolls!!! You say you’re an avid baker…. but don’t you know that pretzels (the real thing) are first BOILED then baked? That’s why these rolls are called PRETZEL ROLLS! They are basically just rolls, but made like pretzels! That’s where you went terribly WRONG… your acid solution was for BOILING the formed rolls for about 30-45 sec (depending on size), then pull out with a slotted spoon and laid to rest on your baking sheet, to be sprinkled with the salt, then baked (for only about 10-15 min). Try that, and I think you will find things much easier, look better, bake faster, and be much tastier! Good Luck!

      4. Marti
        June 15th, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

        Thanks to both of you, Shayne and Lee, for posting this recipe along with the helpful tips. I had these on an NCL cruise in November and they were fantastic. Luckily, I only tried them near the end of the cruise; if I had had them earlier in the week I would have eaten a ton of them! They’re really, really good! Lee, my question to you is: How long do you let the rolls rise the second time—right before you boil them? I’m guessing a 1/2 hour, but would love your input. Thanks!

      5. HeinBloed
        June 16th, 2011 @ 1:04 am

        It’s so easy:

        Laugenbrötchen (the original name for Pretzel rolls):

        Just buy a 8% caustic soda solution (Tell the pharmacists for baking):

        Just before baking: moisten with a brush (Natural hairs – no synthetic) the surface of the bread and roll before baking.

        Do not touch the surface anymore but put some salt or/and cheese on the surface.

        That’s it.

        Now you can have your Laugenbrötchen (Pretzel Roll) also at home.


      6. Shayne
        June 16th, 2011 @ 9:36 am

        Thank you all for your comments. @Lee, I’m more accustomed to baking sweets. I’ve tried my hand at bread a few times with successful results, but never pretzels. (I often swap out the sugar for honey in bread and even pizza dough recipes.) Also, the NCL recipe said to dip the rolls in the solution, but there was no mention of boiling it. Now it makes sense! I really appreciate your tips. Maybe I’ll give it another try some day :).

      7. Jan
        June 16th, 2011 @ 6:27 pm

        no matter how GREAT a BAKER you are…they will always be missing that ONE ingredient at HOME…that SPECIAL stuff which happens to be….EATING THEM ON AN NCL ship…that is what makes them TASTE SO GOOD!!
        ENJOY still 5 1/2 months away til Pretzel Rolls for me…i also LOVE their cheese rolls!!

      8. Lee
        August 5th, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

        Marti – the second rise should only be about 20-30 minutes. You want them to double in size. If you let them rise too long, you will know it… they sort of look TOO stretched out, like they might explode, ha ha.

        The purpose of the second rise is two-fold: after punching down the first time, you knock out more of the ‘big’ air pockets, and you distribute the air throughout the mix, into smaller pockets, making the texture more even. Also, once you have punched it down, it’s kind of blob, so then you form your shape(s), let it rise a bit again to get the right amount of air back into it, then bake off. Does that make sense?

        Hope this helps. If you want the chemical & scientific why behind the magic, google bread-baking — or Harold McGee or Shirley Corriher, they are great at explaining the why behind food science.

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