A new adventure!

September 15, 2015

Bagels! Maybe not PRETTY bagels, but bagels!

Bagels! Maybe not PRETTY bagels, but bagels!

I am inordinately proud of myself. I have made bagels.

And they’re pretty doggoned GOOD bagels, if I did make ’em myownself.

I first became acquainted with bagels some more-than-I-care-to-think-about years ago, when I was at Memphis State, and a bagel and cream cheese in the faculty cafeteria, into which I had learned to sneak because the coffee was better and refills were free. Since then, I’ve spent just enough time in the Northeast to appreciate a REAL bagel. Which ain’t what you get in the supermarket.

In fact, the closest thing I’ve had in these environs to a REAL bagel, at least since the little deli out on Park Avenue near Target closed, is Einstein’s. And the only two of those in Memphis are at the airport (past security!) and on campus at UT Med. They just opened one in Jonesboro, but it, too, is on campus at A-State, and I don’t know that I can be bothered to fight the traffic and parking for that, either.

And besides, I’d always wanted to learn how to make bagels. So I did. And these won’t win any beauty contests, but they taste good and have that good bagel “chew,” despite a mishap I had been afraid would really set them back. So I’m proud.

The recipe I used is from food.com, and it’s here. Yes, it’s as easy as it looks. I was nervous at the idea of the boiling step — boiling BREAD? Seriously? I had visions of past chicken and dumplings disasters — but I needn’t have been. It’s as easy as they make it sound.

The dough is pretty straightforward; one mixes the yeast, sugar and water; mixes the flour and the salt; and combines the two, then works in the remaining flour. One does NOT, as I did, transpose an element from the other baking one is doing (more on that later) into the bagel recipe; I added two tablespoons of melted butter that weren’t in the recipe. It doesn’t appear to have caused any significant damage, but the bagels are pretty soft; not TOO soft, but they have a slighty different flavor profile than I’m used to. I’ll try a batch soon sans butter, to see.

Shaped. After a fashion.

Shaped. After a fashion.

One divides the dough into 12 balls, and lets those rest a bit, and then one sets about bagel making, which involves poking your thumb through the middle to make the hole, and then stretching it out a couple of inches. The prepped bagels go on a cookie sheet, covered by a dishtowel, for 10 minutes while your pot of water boils.

The water. I put a tablespoon of honey in the water, which is not called for in the recipe, but at least a dozen of the 80-ish commenters on the recipe said do it, so I figured, why not. I could fit four bagels at a time in my Dutch oven to boil, and if I had to guess, I’d guess I cooked them closer to 45 seconds on a side than the recommended 45 seconds total.

Weirdest thing I ever saw. They puff up like they were rising, in the water. They also get very cohesive; I used a spatula to turn them and take them out, but I could have easily used tongs. The stretchy pliabiity of the dough is gone, and they have some body and structure to them.

I let them drip over the pot for a few seconds, then put them on a cutting board covered with paper towels to drain a bit. Next time, I’ll use a wire rack; I didn’t this time because I was worried how solid they’d be. Once they were all boiled, the cookie sheet got greased and the bagels went back on it to bake.

Bound for the oven.

Bound for the oven.

I used a whole egg in the egg wash. Lucy enjoyed lapping up what I didn’t use. I make four poppy seed bagels, four sesame seed bagels, and sprinkled the remaining four with sea salt.  They baked at 350 for 35 minutes, and were just about perfect.

Well, in a manner of speaking. They ain’t gonna win any beauty contests.  Next time, I will spend a bit more time shaping the dough into smooth balls when I divide it; I tried to do that when I did the hole-poking, but it needs to be done earlier. And I’ll be sure to pull the holes a full two inches open; they’ll “draw up,” as Grandmama used to say, some, and the puff-up action in the boiling water closes them even more.

As soon as they cooled enough, I split one of the sesame seed numbers open and schmeared it with cream cheese. Beats the Memphis State faculty cafeteria all to hell and back. I make better coffee, too.

Today's loaf of bread.

Today’s loaf of bread.

Bagels were the second of three baking projects today, one of which is to be concluded tomorrow. I needed sandwich bread, so I knocked out a loaf of that this morning. It was probably the best one I’ve made yet — same Cook’s Illustrated recipe, but I used Pillsbury Gold Medal flour instead of the standard Kroger brand all-purpose, and the dough was significantly softer, as was the finished loaf. Really good sandwich bread. I made a single 9 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf, cut it in half, and tightly wrapped half of it before stashing it in a zip-loc and putting it in the freezer. I just don’t eat bread fast enough to eat a loaf before it goes bad. I’ve had a piece of toast with jelly for dessert after my bagel (hey, I had NO carbs at lunch!), and it’s a really nice texture.

And proofing away on my kitchen counter, where it will repose overnight, is a batch of English muffin dough. Because I was jonesing for an English muffin. And I’ve never done those, either. Hopefully, they will turn out to be as easy as the bagels, and I will have plenty of breakfast breads on hand for you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em to come eat breakfast.

Stay tuned for English muffin details!

 

 

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