Chef Jean-Claude LeLan with Pretzels

by Lynn

The beauty of working or living in Washington is that you’d never know where a conversation might lead.  As I at the steps of my building’s door, this man riding his bike said “Don’t you know your building is closed?”  I asked for a clarification because I thought he knew something I didn’t.  We had a short and light-hearted conversation.

I learned that he was a private chef.  He gave me his card, and of course, I Googled him immediately once I got to work.  Turns out he is Chef Jean-Claude LeLan who has (or still is) working with Le Refuge in Old Town Alexandria.  It is listed as one of the top French restaurants in Alexandria.  Based on the advertisement, I really want to try out their Soft Shell Crab.

I’ll Facebook friend him since he suggested it, and perhaps I can attend one of his cooking lessons!  A few blogger said he does classes from his Mt. Vernon Square home too.

If you are looking for a mouthwatering pretzel recipe without lye, search no further!


  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan. ***NOTE – the baking soda will strip away hard anodized surfaces, so use stainless steel.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Courtesy of Food Network.