Getting Technical: Making The Great Canadian Baking Show’s Pretzels

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.

Laying out the ingredients for the pretzels

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.

The pretzel dough in an oiled bowl

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 dough divided into 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.

The dough in pretzel form.

Refreshed from my walk, I was ready to finish making the pretzels.

Water and baking soda solution

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.

Ready for the oven

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

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.



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