Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels
Well here it is my first post as a Daring Baker. I admit that I joined the Daring Bakers with some trepidation. This group of adventurous cooks had made puff pastry for goodness sake. The baking pinnacle as far as I am concerned. So it was with a beating heart that I peeked through fingers at my first challenge - BAGELS.
My first thought, oh yay yeast, I can cope with yeast. While I only started cooking with yeast about a year ago, I am quite comfortable with it.
My second thought was, oh no bagels. I have never even seen let alone tasted a proper bagel. Here in Australia, we have bagels but they wouldn't dare show their face in New York. They are, as another Daring Baker described them, bread rolls with holes in them.
But I am nothing if not determined at least some of the time, so one Sunday afternoon I rolled up my sleeves and took myself into the kitchen. To set the mood I switched on the radio. A local station was counting down the most popular 1000 songs as voted for by the Canberra public (I disclaim all responsibility for the outcome). To the soothing sounds of song No.337 I Can't Stand the Rain (just as well it was brilliantly sunny then) by Eruption I got started.
Step 1- Proof Yeast
I poured three cups of hot water into a mixing bowl, added 6 tbspn of sugar, 4 tbsn of dry yeast , and 2 tspn of salt. Whoops, the salt was a mistake it should go in step 2, but I am hopeless at reading recipes.
After the panicky moment of realisation I hovered over the yeast like an anxious mother hen. Was I going to fail this task in the first two minutes? After a minute or so the mix seemed to be bubbling away okay, so I calmed down and just left it. I don't think it made any difference in the end.
After about about ten minutes I had a nice fluffy yeast sponge. Excellent. The first step is always the hardest.
Step 2- Make Dough to song No. 333 Under Pressure by David Bowie (you and me both David, you and me both!!!!!!!)
So now I slowly added flour to the yeast mix. Moment of panic number 2 - the recipe said bread flour I had something called baking flour. I had just pulled this off the shelf without really thinking about it too much. Were they the same thing? What to do, what to do? Figuring there was nothing to do but press on and hope, I pressed on and hoped, with my fingers crossed.
Now the recipe said 6-8 cups. I probably added about 51/2. I'm always wary of making bread dough too dry. I don't like crumbly bread.
This apparently was a mistake. Subsequent discussions between the Daring Bakers concluded that it is important to add all the flour in order to get the correct dense chewy texture........Crumbs.
Step 3- Knead Dough to song No.331 Come Monday by Jimmy Buffet (oh leave off Jimmy, no way I'm looking forward to Monday).
This is the fun bit. I love kneading dough. It's a great receptacle for petty frustrations and annoyances (like Jimmy Buffet for example). I pounded the dough back and forth serenading it to I Want to Take You To Heaven. I'm not sure which the dough hated more.
I ended up with a lovely silky smooth ball. Not exactly the stiff mixture it was supposed to be, thanks to the lack of flour (developing theme alert, developing theme alert).
Step 4- Let Dough Rise to song No.328 Fool If You Think It's Over by Chris Rea (tell me about it Chris, tell me about it. Still five steps to go - not even half way. No need for the name calling though. These songs were getting scarily phrophetic.)
Okay this is where things started to go slightly awry.
The dough went into a lightly oiled bowl. I covered it with a damp tea towel and put it in the oven with the light on to provide enough warmth. This is a widely used method and I find it the best way to get dough to rise at this chilly time of year.
The dough really shot up at a rapid rate. The ratio of yeast to flour is quite high. One minute you have a cute little baby ball of dough, twenty minutes later it wants to leave home and get married.
Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels to song No.322 Breakin' Up Is Hard To Do by Neil Sedaka (the bagel dough and I agreed on this point. Would we ever see the back of each other?).
I filled a stockpot and brought it to the boil and then turned it down to a simmer. Only then did I remember that I was supposed to add 3-5 tbspn of sugar or malt syrup. Doh. So I turned the water back up to the boil, added the sugar and turned it back down to a simmer, again. I really must learn to read a recipe.
I went for sugar because I have never seen malt syrup anywhere. Sugar was just easier.
So far so good.
Step 6- Form Bagels to song No.317 Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth by Meatloaf (literally. I've got nothing here.)
I punched down the dough and divided it into balls. I kept them small to ensure that I could fit more than one at a time into the stockpot. Otherwise, this was going to take all night. I have to admit that my, okay rather pedantic nature there I said it, got the better of me. I weighed each bagel ball to ensure they would be even sized. I just like things to be symmetrical and regular. It's a blessing and a curse.
Some daring bakers used the method of forming them into a rope and joining the ends together to form a circle. I went with the poking your finger through the middle and pulling them into a ring shape approach. This seemed far more satisfying. What's not fun about poking holes in things. It's a primal thing I'm sure.
Anyway it worked perfectly well, and a I had a lovely row of bagels. It was impossible to get them smoothly neat and even. It was slightly lumpy bagels or nothing. I chose lumpy bagels.
Step 7- Pre-heat Oven to song No.315 Beast of Burden by Bette Middler (sing it Bette, hear that bagels!!!!)
I was all over this step. Oven at 200C. Done. Man I am good!!!
Step 8 - Half Proof and Boil Bagels to song No.313 Please Forgive Me by Richard Marx (Oh alright then. Bagels and I - friends once more.)
As instructed I let the bagels sit for about 10 minutes. The idea is that they should rise by about 25 per cent. This done, I set one sacrificial bagel into the water to see how it would go.
It floated. This was not good. Theoretically, if you have the texture right the bagels will sink first, then float to the top. My bagel was one of the most bouyant things I've ever seen. It sat right on the very top of the water. It would put most ducks to shame. Lucky I really like faux Australian bread roll bagels then.
I simmered the bagel for three minutes on each side. Turning it out onto a clean tea towel. After the first one, I simmered three at a time. But it still seemed to take forever. This is definitely the most tedious part of this recipe. Fortunately, I had Natalia Cole and her Dad to get me through with Unforgettable, sadly inapposite as it was.
The bagels are supposed to come out shiny, thanks to the sugar. I can't say I noticed this. They kinda looked much the same as when they went in.
Step 9 - Top the bagels to No.308 Twistin' by the Pool by Dire Straits (I wished).
I brushed the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons of water beaten together. I sprinkled some with poppy seeds, because these are my favourite. Some I sprinkled with sesame seeds and the rest I left plain.
Step 10- Bake Bagels to song No.307 Teardrops by Womack and Womack (It's a lie. I held tough. I also love this song.)
To totally avoid any likelihood of the bagels sticking I both lined a baking tray with baking paper and sprinkled it with cornmeal. This worked perfectly.
In the oven they went. I reverted to my mother hen act and hovered anxiously by the oven door. To my worried eye they seemed to shrink. And keep on shrinking. It was most alarming.
After 25 minutes, I got to turn them over to stop the bottoms from going flat. This was a great relief because I was able to see that my fears were groundless and they hadn't turned into little dried out husks. Now, however, I was worried that all the carefully applied topping would just fall off.
I'm really not sure about the whole turning over thing. It just seemed to make them go flat on both sides, kind of like donuts. I didn't bother for the remaining batches and I think they were much better in appearance.
Anyway, another ten minutes and it was time for......
Step 11 - Out of oven and eat to song No.285 The Gambler by Kenny Rogers. (Too perfect. Know when to walk away, know when to run. It never even crossed my mind, honest.)
And here they are.....
As expected, and as you can see below, they were breadier than I'm sure they should be. But on the other hand they were denser than bread rolls. And they had a lovely crunchy chewy crust. The cornmeal on the bottom also added a nice crunch. So I would still recommend using it even with baking paper.
As for the taste, well that was fabulous. They were yeasty with a just a hint of sweetness from the sugar. The second and optional part of the challenge was to fill the bagels. There was never any chance of that. They were promptly ripped apart and eaten plain. They were that good.
Some did survive to the next day. But they go stale remarkably quickly and were pretty much inedible. It's a case of either freezing or eating with these bagels.
Overall, I consider them to be a huge success. I was so pleased to have gotten through my first challenge with a credible effort. Despite my lighthearted sarcasm, I had great fun. Bring on the next challenge I say.
Thanks to Jenny and Freya for choosing such a great task. The recipe in it's original form can be found here. I would also encourage you to check out how some of my fellow daring baker's went with this recipe, links here.
And the number one song of all time according to the good people of Canberra, well it was by a Liverpudlian who wondered about things a lot. Exactly what I imagined it would be.