ADVANCED DOUGH?! Boy did I panic when the theme of this week was announced. I'd only just managed puff pastry dough and now they want me to step things up a notch? Well I gave it a good go. None of the things the bakers on the show were going to be making this week appealed to me (other than doughnuts but I'm terrified of deep fat frying), and I remembered the contestants of last year really struggling with pretzels in the technical challenge, so decided to give them a go. I do love a good pretzel, but wanted to get a bit adventurous with the flavouring. One of my fave flavours is salted caramel, and what goes better with caramel than apple right? Pretzels alone may not be all that complicated, but I sure complicated things by adding apple to the dough. However I took the necessary precautions (that 1tbsp of flour with the apples is a lifesaver) to make sure it wasn't a disaster and so that you guys can give this recipe a go without having to worry about any hiccups.
500g strong white flour + 1 tbsp
7g fast-action yeast
40g butter, softened
1 tbsp malt extract (or Ovaltine/Horlicks)
21g bicarbonate of soda
2 Pink Lady Apples
1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/8 tsp nutmeg
For the caramel
75 grams unsalted butter
50g soft light brown sugar
50g caster sugar
50g golden sugar
125 ml double cream
1 tsp fleur de sel or Cornish Sea Salt
1. Add the flour, salt, yeast and butter to a bowl . In a jug, add the malt extract to the milk and stir until dissolved. Add the milk mixture gradually to the flour and mix until a dough is formed.
2. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and knead. The dough should be stiff but not sticky,and shouldn't need any extra flour to knead. Be patient. The more you knead the smoother and dryer the dough will become. Continue for 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and glossy.
3. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover in oiled cling film and leave to prove until doubled in size (approx 45 minutes).
4. Whilst waiting for the dough to prove, peel, core and chop the apple into small cubes. In a bowl at the cinnamon, nutmeg and 1tbsp of flour, then add the apple cubes and toss until completely covered.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/ 400F / Gas 6
6. Once proved, turn the dough out and add the apple a handful at a time, kneading each handful until the apple is evenly spread throughout the dough.
7. Divide the dough into 10 chunks, rolling each chunk into a ball to make sure they're all the same size.
8. Using your hands, take each piece, and roll the dough into a long sausage shape, tapering the ends and creating a slight bulge in the middle. Each piece should be about 40-50cm long in length. You may need to roll out each o the strands just part way at first, then rest them, allowing the glutens to relax, before continuing to roll them out to their full length. This can help to prevent the strands springing back and creating unevenly shaped pieces. As you roll out the ropes you should apply some pressure to the dough, working from the middle outwards , pushing out any air bubbles that may have formed in the dough.
9. The traditional way to shape pretzels is to take hold of each end of the strand and lift it into the air to create a U shape. Then, without letting go of the ends , and in one swift movement, flip the centre of the U propelling it to make a double twist. However I found this way to complicated, so with the strand laying down, I created an upside-down U shape, grabbed the ends and brought them up into the U, and twisted them around each other twice. It was much simpler. Lightly press the tapered ends onto the opposite side of the pretzel, attaching them either side of the central bulge. You may find a little dab of water will help them to stick. Carefully flip the pretzels over and onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper, so that the ends are now face down. You should now have a classic pretel shape with three equally spaced sections.
10. Add the bicarbonate of soda to 7 litres/ 12 1/2 pints of boiling water, and gently drop each pretzel into the water for approximately 5 seconds. Gently remove and place on a baking tray.
11. With a sharp knife, make a deep slash in the thickest part of the pretzel.
12. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes , or until they are a deep brown colour.
13. Meanwhile, for the salted caramel, melt the butter, sugars, syrup in a small heavy based pan and let simmer for 3 minutes, swirling every now and then.
14. Add cream and half a teaspoon of fleur de sel salt (not table salt) and swirl again. Give it a taste to see if you want to add any more salt, before letting it cook for another minute, then pour into a bowl and put it in the fridge.
15. When the pretzels are done, leave them to cool on a wire rack.
16. When the caramel has thickened enough to pipe, pour into a sandwich bag and snip off a small corner. Pipe over the pretzel in whatever pattern you like. I went for a simplistic zig-zag.