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:
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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