Bagels

Lauren Groveman’s Bagels mark my return to the TWD fold, having had to skip out on Cranberry-Walnut Pumpkin Loaves two weeks ago.  I’ll be getting to that recipe in two weeks, taking advantage of the catch-up post on October 31.  I’ve never made bagels before, and I had never really thought of making them before.  Bagels are fine by me, yet I don’t have the occasion to eat enough of them to justify making ten at a stretch.  Still I was excited to try them, as Bagels involved some new techniques to shaping the dough.  It would also be my first time boiling dough.  Hosting Bagels this week is Heather of Heather’s Bytes.  Readers interested in the full recipe can find it at her blog, or in the pages of Baking With Julia.  I would also highly recommend watching the video on the PBS website.

Mixing up the dough began uneventfully.  I had earlier purchased a new bag of King Arthur bread flour, having exhausted my prior bag for Whole Wheat Loaves.  Fellow baker Jill points out the recipe as aired includes both sugar and barley malt syrup, unlike the cookbook version, where Dorie Greenspan includes only sugar.  Since the wheat bread included that as a preferred ingredient, I decided to seek out a bottle of the brown liquid.  Likewise, I substituted an equal amount of softened butter for the 3 Tbs of vegetable shortening, since I didn’t have any Crisco on hand, and didn’t want to buy an entire can of something I rarely use.

I also decided to mix the dough by hand, mostly because I like kneading.  I went light on the photos taking this round, as I’ve taken plenty of photos of dough on the rise these past few months.  The dough came together with relative ease — too much ease as it turns out.  I felt I had a good dough after having added just over 5 cups of flour, plus a little more as I kneaded it.  After a 2 hour rise in a warm oven, and a second rise overnight in the fridge, I was ready to shape, boil, and bake some bagels.

 

Shaping the dough was kind of fun.  I watched the video several times to see how Mrs. Groveman does it.  I ended up with a hybrid approach, forming and stretching the gluten cloak all at once rather like rounding a ball of just kneaded dough, though keeping at it until I had very smooth exterior.  I then did all manner of pinching to keep the ball tight.  Thereafter I followed Lauren’s technique to form the rings: poke a hole with one finger, elongating that hole, and then rolling one and then two fingers of each hand to form a rather silly shaped ring.

Boiling turned out to be a mitigated disaster.  Coming out of the water bath, my proto-bagels had softened up, as if they had begun to melt into the boiling water.  Both were so wet as to stick both to the draining towel, as well as the peel I was using to transfer them to my stone.  The first of the soggy rings was a complete loss, earning a spot in the trash can.  With a great measure of frustration, I threw the second onto the hot baking stone for it’s defiance.  No egg white wash, no toppings, not even a puff of steam.

Luckily, I was only boiling one bagel at a time, so I was able to rescue this batch.  Figuring the dough needed more flour,  I combined the three remaining rings of dough, added as much as 1/3 cup additional bread flour, and proceeded to knead the dough for 4-5 minutes to incorporate the flour.  After a short rise, I was ready to try again.

With improved dough, the second batch turned out better.  While shaping them was the same, on splash down the proto-bagels firmed up a bit like you might expect of dumplings or spaetzle.  I used a different towel with less texture and the bagels released easily.  Not wanting to risk sticking on the peel, I covered it with a sheet of parchment paper.  I did three variations, one with poppy seeds, one with caraway seed, and a third with a little of both.

The parchment and all three went onto the stone.  I attempted to steam the oven, though 5 small ice cubes and some water evaporated instantly in a cast iron skillet I’d placed on the oven floor.  I baked the bagels according to the recipe, concluding with the oven off, and door open.  I must have stretched my bagels a bit too far.  After baking, the center holes were still quite large.

While the bagels cooled, I mixed some finely chopped shallot and chives with cream cheese.  I could have added a few flakes of smoked salmon top the cream cheese; instead I gilded the lily by laying on whole slices.  The combination of cream cheese, bagel, smoked salmon, and two member of the onion family hit the spot, especially after all the work required.

The outside of bagel itself was a bit tougher than what I’m used.  In the P & Q for this recipe, fellow baker LovesAndStitches offers up several tips including a shorter boil time.  I went with about a minute per side.  I’ll try a minute total with the other half of the dough.  I’ll also try baking them on a sheet pan, hoping I won’t end up with such a crispy bottom.

If I regularly ate lots of bagels, I’d probably be tempted to try this again.  They had good flavor, and I’m anticipating the second batch to remedy both the tough exteriors as well as too-crispy bottoms.  Unless I’m hosting plenty of bagel eating guests, I’ll stick to buying the occasional bagel over rolling my own.

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8 Responses to Bagels

  1. Great job on saving the dough! My mother’s a professional baker and turned me on to using parchment paper on top of the baking stone. I do that when I make pizza; it’s so much easier to form the pizza on the paper and slip the whole thing into the oven. I might try that for the bagels next time too.

    • Paul says:

      For pizza, parchment _is_ easier, though sliding the pie off the peel and onto the stone keeps it exciting. For that reason, my pizzas are never symmetrical, but I’m fine with that. Especially for a thin crust, I find sliding works well with fewer toppings. Otherwise I cook the pie twice. When TWD gets to pizza, I’ll share the tips I’ve found work well.

  2. oven chaos says:

    Sorry to hear about the first batch of bagels! The second batch looks great. I also baked the bagels on lightly oiled parchment and skipped the whole fiasco with the towels.

  3. cathleen says:

    They look good! Good to know you can use parchment on a stone – I thought it would be too hot and burn.

    • Paul says:

      I suspect the surface of the stone is hotter than the oven air. In any case the paper does brown around the edges, but I’ve never had it burst into flame in the oven. Whatever food you’re baking is always well below the oven temp; I think that keeps the parchment from browning near the food.

  4. barbaramais says:

    you are a better man than me gunga dinn–there is no way in heaven or other that I would ever try that

  5. Ckay says:

    Paul, wow, that was an experience! How many “grey hairs” did you get? The rescue was fantastic!
    Congratulations, they look so good! I love your filling: cream cheese and salmon: yummy!.

    • Paul says:

      A few well-placed curse words — and the “punishment” of the insolent bagel, but no grey hairs. I’d welcome a few grey hairs if that meant they’d stay in place. Both older brothers have lost most of their hair; mine has certainly thinned out a bit more than I’d like.

      For your next bagel, homemade or bought, I’d really recommend going the vegetable route with the cream cheese. That’s what really makes the difference. I’d go so far as to say I’d pick a doctored cream cheese alone, over salmon with ordinary cream cheese.

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