Yes, the Daring Bakers are at it again. This month we went on an entirely different track of baking, moving away from the mounds of cream and butter that we've enjoyed (?) over the last few months, into something a bit healthier, but just as challenging.
I don't know about everyone, but I know that I appreciated the break from butter, as did my partner in crime, co-hosting with me this month, Freya.
Yes, as you can see from all the pictures, we made BAGELS!!!
I have good friends who are Jewish, who when they heard I was making a recipe called Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels, informed me that Jewish people BUY bagels, they don't MAKE them! Apparently I have made 3 batches of buns, but not bagels. They aren't cooked in a wood burning oven, so therefore, they aren't bagels.
Well pshaw to them! Bagels I set out to make, along with all my fellow DB'ers, and bagels I (eventually) made!
As I've said, I made 3 batches of these.
My first was indeed bagel shaped buns. They looked round, but were very bread-like, not the chewy texture that good bagels should be. But letting the dough rise while the water came to a boil was too long to let them rise. With 4 tablespoons of yeast, I shouldn't have been surprised at how far and how fast the dough rose, but this I hadn't expected!
That is a very large bowl and it was very, very full! I also could not shape the bagels fast enough to stop the rising, so, as I said, I made very bagel like buns.
However that first batch did give me some clues as to how to improve - start the water early, don't let the dough rise so much, really knead the heck out of it, and be sure to accurately time the duration in the water. Oh and cornmeal on a baking sheet is a bad idea, next time use parchment, then cornmeal. Unless I really want to take the time to scrub baking sheets again.
So I started again, this time making a half batch of the dough, and letting my 8 year old be my photographer.
The idea behind the bagel dough is a fast dough, with high gluten, that sinks into the seasoned (with malt syrup or sugar, not salt) water when you boil the dough, before you bake it off with whatever topping you want. Yes, I said the bagel should sink into the water. Notice I didn't say my bagels sunk?
The recipe makes allowances for this, which is good, because no amount of kneading on my part resulted in bagels that sunk for more than 5 seconds. They were floaters, all of them.
On my second batch, I also decided to try both methods of bagel shaping: the hole method and the rope method. Since I was especially careful to make sure that my ends were well joined on the rope style ones, once they were boiled, I could not tell the difference between the two types of bagels. I had hopped that one would result in a firmer bagel, or a less airy dough, that would sink. No such luck.
As the recipe chooser for the month, I had the "pleasure" of picking out the rules for this challenge. I don't think my rules were too bad, and I tried to allow for some creativity. One of the options I gave was for the topping of the bagels - baker's were required to leave the dough plain, but could top the bagels anyway they wanted. While I backed up the suggestion of the recipe author for savory toppings, I did leave it free to the other baker's to go crazy with their toppings.
I, on the other hand, was boring. I went with poppy seeds and sesame seeds. I went with what we like and what the children would eat.
On my third batch, however, I got a bit more "crazy" and tried to make cheddar bagels. You won't see any pictures of them her, though. They weren't even ugly to look at, they were down right scary!
Another lesson learned, however: Don't top your cheddar bagels with the cheese until the last 5 minutes of cooking. Not if you don't want them to look like greasy, almost-burnt hockey pucks. Sure they tasted decent (but not at all like what I was aiming for) but oh my did they look horrid!
Oh I also learned a lesson in why this recipe author wants bagels made by hand, and not by mixer. I waited until my third batch to try this (having stated very clearly in the rules that for our first batch we had to follow the recipe exactly!) Poor Bob, my lovely stand mixer, was too small for the task of a full batch of bagels. Perhaps one day Bob will have a companion, a professional mixer, who can handle 8 cups of bread flour, but for now, if I make them again, I will stick with by hand. Save myself having to pry dough out of parts that should never have had dough in it to begin with, dough that climbed up the kneading hook and tried to go inside the mixer.
One last part to bagel making (since this post is getting very long and I haven't even put the recipe up yet!) To add to the "challenge" of bagel making for my DB'ers, I also gave them the option of coming up with creative ways to top their bagels! This was completely optional but was added in an effort to give people another way to express themselves, since bagels did not leave much room for creative presentation.
Myself, my first homemade bagel was eaten plain, still warm, just like I would do if I were getting a warm, fresh bagel from our local bagel makers (who, yes, use wood ovens.) The children enjoyed theirs with strawberry cream cheese, the husband with plain cream cheese.
Stored in a ziploc bag over night, my next bagel was toasted and topped with butter and sliced Marble and Havarti cheeses. The cheddar bagels, the ones without pictures, were enjoyed with a green onion cream cheese.
Let's face it, we are a boring, conservative family of bagel eaters. Who were all perfectly happy not getting off our ordinary track of bagel eating.
I hope everyone who was able to complete this months' challenge enjoyed themselves. And were able to step a bit further outside their own comfort zone.
Bet you are craving bagels now, aren't you? :-)
REAL HONEST JEWISH PURIST'S BAGELSI have copied this recipe over exactly from the website I found it at. This is the exact directions I followed when making my bagels.
This is a recipe by my friend Johanne Blank.
Gentle reader, it is assumed that you know from bagels. The bagel, in its peripateic history, has moved from the shtetls of Eastern Europe to the delis of the United States, survived the onslaught of many a foreign formulation and flavoring, and also has managed to remain relatively dignified in the face of mass-production, freezing and other procedural adulterations and bastardizations. In the United States, however, most people's idea of a bagel seems to be of a vaguely squishy unsweetened doughnut, possibly with some sort of godawful flavoring mixed into it (with the "blueberry bagel" being perhaps the most offensive), generally purchased in lots of six in some supermarket... possibly even frozen. These are not those bagels.
These bagels are the genuine article. These are the bagels that have sustained generations of Eastern European Jewish peasants, the bagels that babies can teethe upon (folk wisdom has it that the hard, chewy crust encourages strong teeth), the bagels about which writer and humorist Alice Kahn has so aptly written that bagels are "Jewish courage."
This recipe makes approximately fifteen large bagels, The bagels are made without eggs, milk or any type of shortening or oil, which makes them pareve according to Kosher law. These bagels are plain, but I will provide suggestions as to how you may customize them to your tastes while retaining their Pristine and Ineffable Nature. May you bake them and eat them in good health.
- 6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
- 4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
- 6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 cups hot water
- a bit of vegetable oil
- 1 gallon water
- 3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
- a few handfuls of cornmeal
- large mixing bowl
- wire whisk
- measuring cups and spoons
- wooden mixing spoon
- butter knife or baker's dough blade
- clean, dry surface for kneading
- 3 clean, dry kitchen towels
- warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
- large stockpot
- slotted spoon
- 2 baking sheets
HOW YOU DO IT:
First, pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers (a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.
Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. This is known as "proofing" the yeast, which simply means that you're checking to make sure your yeast is viable. Skipping this step could result in your trying to make bagels with dead yeast, which results in bagels so hard and potentially dangerous that they are banned under the terms of the Geneva Convention. You will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.
At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Some people subscribe to the theory that it is easier to tell what's going on with the dough if you use your hands rather than a spoon to mix things into the dough, but others prefer the less physically direct spoon. As an advocate of the bare-knuckles school of baking, I proffer the following advice: clip your fingernails, take off your rings and wristwatch, and wash your hands thoroughly to the elbows, like a surgeon. Then you may dive into the dough with impunity. I generally use my right hand to mix, so that my left is free to add flour and other ingredients and to hold the bowl steady. Left-handed people might find that the reverse works better for them. Having one hand clean and free to perform various tasks works best.
When you have incorporated the first three cups of lour, the dough should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time. Soon you will begin to knead it by hand (if you're using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this segue is hardly noticeable). If you have a big enough and shallow enough bowl, use it as the kneading bowl, otherwise use that clean, dry, flat countertop or tabletop mentioned in the "Equipment" list above. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking (to your hands, to the bowl or countertop, etc....). Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do not make it too dry, however... it should still give easily and stretch easily without tearing.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with one of your clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet and then wringing it out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the whole ball of dough covered with a very thin film of oil, which will keep it from drying out.
Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keep the temperature slightly elevated. If it's cold in your kitchen, you can try this, but remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 80 degrees Farenheit (25 centigrades) is ideal for rising dough.
While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup or sugar and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.
Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels. For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine. DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape your bagels. This will pusht them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity and give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike.
Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don't want to crowd them, and so there should only be two or three bagels simmering at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it's not a big deal, but it does mean that you'll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture. Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the countertop for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.
Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 mintues, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels.
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool... hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.
Serve with good cream cheese.
TO CUSTOMIZE BAGELS: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place.