This soft white dough is shaped and twisted into two flavours of pretzel – a savoury pretzel with salt and sesame seeds, and a sweet one flavoured with orange zest and poppy seeds – then glazed after baking with a sweet orange syrup.
To make the dough, put the flour, salt, yeast and butter into a large mixing bowl. Add the malt extract to the milk and stir well until dissolved. With your hand, gradually work the milk mixture into the flour, and keep mixing to make a stiff, non-sticky dough.
Turn out the dough onto a worktop (the dough shouldn’t need any extra flour for kneading). Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and glossy. Divide it in half and put one half into an oiled bowl. Add the orange zest and poppy seeds to the other portion of dough and work in until evenly distributed. Put this dough into another oiled bowl. Cover both bowls with clingfilm and leave to prove for about 45 minutes until doubled in size.
Heat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Turn out the plain dough onto the worktop and divide into 6 equal pieces. Take one piece and, using your hands, roll it back and forth to make a rope shape 40–50cm long, tapering the ends and creating a slight bulge in the centre. As you roll the dough rope, apply pressure to work it from the middle outwards, pushing out any air bubbles. You may find it easier to roll the rope part of the way, then leave it for a few minutes to relax before continuing the rolling to the full length – this helps prevent the rope from springing back and creating misshapen pieces. Shape the other 5 pieces of plain dough, then divide and roll the sweet orange dough in the same way.
The traditional – and quickest – way to shape a pretzel is to take hold of each tapered end of the rope and lift them up 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 form a double twist. Lay the twist back on the worktop and lightly press the tapered ends onto the opposite sides of the pretzel, attaching them at either side of the central bulge. (You may find a little dab of water helps stick the ends to the pretzel.) Carefully flip the pretzel over and onto a lined baking sheet so the ends are facing down. You should now have a classic pretzel shape with three equally spaced sections.
Another, simpler way to shape a pretzel is flat on the worktop. Curve the rope into a U shape, then take the 2 tapered ends and twist them around each other twice before fixing the ends to the opposite sides of the pretzel and pressing down lightly to seal. Whichever method you use, work speedily to shape all 12 pretzels.
Bring the water to the boil in a large pan, then add the bicarbonate of soda. Gently drop a pretzel into the boiling water and leave for 5 seconds, then carefully remove with a slotted spoon and set on a lined baking sheet. Continue blanching all the pretzels, keeping the differently flavoured pretzels separate. While the plain dough pretzels are still wet from the pan, sprinkle over the rock salt and sesame seeds.
Make a deep slash into the thickest part of the dough (the central bulge of the pretzel) using a small sharp knife. Place the pretzels in the heated oven and bake for 20–25 minutes until they are a deep brown.
Meanwhile, make the glaze for the sweet pretzels. Put the orange zest and juice and 100g of the sugar into a small pan. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and boil for 1 minute. Lift out the zest with a slotted spoon and roll in the rest of the sugar in a small bowl. Boil the orange syrup until reduced and sticky, then strain through a fine sieve.
As soon as the pretzels are baked, transfer them to a wire rack. Quickly brush the sweet pretzels with the syrup glaze and scatter over the candied zest. Leave to cool.
Pictured: Technical challenge winner Kimberley’s winning pretzels