For “Bread Week” the season 4 bakers of The Great Canadian Baking show had to make pretzels. The bakers were given 2 hours and 30 minutes to make 12 beautiful pretzels with their well-known skin.
As an avid baker, I decided that I would challenge myself to make this season’s technical bakes as along as I am not buying equipment or ingredients that I would never use again.
I’ve also decided to give myself 2 hours and 30 minutes to make 12 pretzels. The only advantage that I have over the bakers is that I have a detailed recipe where I got exact amounts of ingredients and baking times.
So how did I do?
The first thing I did was lay out all the ingredients on the counter like the bakers in the tent. There were a couple of things that I did a head of time like measuring out the butter and leaving it out at room temperature. I also measured out 8g of instant yeast as I didn’t have a ready to use package. As well, I measured out the water so that it would come to a lukewarm temperature (I have a kettle so that I always have hot water on hand).
The next thing I did was measure out the flour and salt then added the yeast. After, I added the butter and like on the show, used my hands to work into sandy crumbs.
I warmed the milk until it is lukewarm, added the molasses then the water. I added the liquids to the dry and formed the shaggy dough.
Just like on the show, I folded the dough, did a turn, folded it again seven more times. I then put into another oiled bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes.
I had to do the folding a few more times and had to let the dough rest 15 minutes in between. So in total I had 45 minutes of downtime.
During that time, I got the baking sheets ready with rice flour, prepped some stuff for the cheese dip and got a pot of water ready to go for when the pretzels are shaped (more on that later).
The show didn’t show that much downtime and also didn’t indicate that there was a lot resting of the dough.
By the time the dough was ready to be divided into 12 pieces I think I had 1 hour and 24 minutes left. Dividing the dough into 12 equal pieces took time as I used a scale to ensure that each piece was equal and I barely got out 12 pieces.
The next thing that took forever was rolling the dough into a rope that is 30 inches long. I truly believe that the dough needs to be that long to get the characteristic pretzel shape. I noticed that a lot of the bakers on the show had quite small/tight pretzels and I think it is because they didn’t roll it long enough.
By the time that I rolled out all 12 pieces and shaped them into pretzels, I was at time. So FAILURE!
Since I was already past time and the pretzels needed to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 3 hours, I decided to go for a walk. Before that I went for my walk, I finished making the cheese dip.
I will tell, getting up to this step of the recipe left me totally exhausted that I was getting sleepy on my walk.
Refreshed from my walk, I was ready to finish making the pretzels.
The recipe and on the show, it calls for the use of lye, which is very corrosive. First off, I didn’t know where to buy lye and also, would I use lye again? (The answer is no). So I Googled for an alternative and found one at King Arthur Baking’s website that would still achieve the same effect.
What I ended up doing was boiling 6 cups of water with 2 tablespoon of baking soda.
It was pretty straight forward this step. I put the pretzels in one at a time in this solution for 1 minute. Then took it out and placed it on a cooling rack over a baking sheet to catch the drips.
Once all the pretzels have gone through this process, I placed them on another sheet with parchment paper, salted them with coarse salt and baked in at 450 F oven for 25 minutes (I rotated the pans after 15 minutes).
The end result? I think I achieved the deep brown colour as on the show. The shapes were a bit inconsistent but they did look like pretzels. The pretzels did have a nice bounce back when touched and were nice and chewy with the right amount of salt. The cheese dip was alright. I think I added a bit too much onion but I did like the hint of lemon in it.
If I was on the show, where I would have placed? Well, if we went by my running out time then last. But if we go by the end result, I would say 5th or 6th. I am basing this on how mine’s turned out and compared to what Bruno and Kyla said about the bakers that I felt I was comparable to.