Sunday, June 14, 2009

BBA: Bagels


It is no exaggeration to say that I was probably more excited to make bagels out of the Bread Baker's Apprentice than I've ever been to make anything ever. More excited that the Cover Cake? More excited than sticky buns? Yes, because I know that somewhere in my town, I can find great chocolate cake and fabulous sticky buns even if I choose to never make them again. But I know that I can't find a truly great water bagel. [NOTE to my local friends: please correct me if there are in fact great bagels to be had here in town. I currently go to Panera when I want a bagel.]

When I think of great bagels, I think of New York style water bagels, like the kind I used to get at H&H Bagels when I lived in New York, or at Bodo's Bagels when I lived in Charlottesville. In fact, I still wear my threadbare Bodo's t-shirt to bed at least three nights a week - that's how devoted I am to the water bagel. Hubs and I ate at Bodo's so much when we were in school that to this day when I walk in there, muscle memory takes over and "my sandwich" (smoked turkey on everything with provolone and lettuce heated) rolls off my tongue as soon as the guy at the counter asks for my order.


So given how much I love water bagels, and how frustrated I've been by my inability to find them locally, I was prepared to do whatever it took to make my own at home. Even if it meant braving an 8 page recipe and mail-ordering specialty flour. You know you've crossed some kind of invisible sanity line when your doorbell rings and you run to the front door singing "it's my high-gluten flour!"

The bagels start out with a sponge made from yeast, high-gluten flour and water. Mix it all together in a bowl and let it sit for a couple of hours until it's foamy and bubbly, doubles in size and "collapses" when the bowl is tapped on the countertop. To me "collapse" is a pretty dramatic word, much more so than "recede," which is what my sponge did. Fortunately, several of us were making the bagels "together" via Twitter, so I got instant reassurance that receding was probably good enough. Once the sponge is ready, add more yeast, more flour, salt, and malt powder.

It became clear pretty quickly that my Kitchen Aid was not going to handle this thick, heavy dough, so I had to knead it by hand. It was my first time hand kneading, I think, and while I don't have anything to compare it to, this seemed like a nice dough to handle. Once it passed the windowpane test and the temperature test, Elizabeth and I began dividing the dough.


Peter Reinhart recommends 4.5 oz bagels, but several people said they were enormous, and having just dealt with huge bread last time, I decided to go with a more manageable 3.5 ounce size. They seemed perfect to me.


After the bagels are shaped, rest for 20 minutes, and pass the "float test," they get refrigerated overnight.

I woke up like a kid on Christmas on bagel baking day. I brought a huge pot of water (with baking soda in it) to a boil and started boiling the bagels, one to two minutes per side:



Then baked them:


The verdict? There is plenty of room for improvement in my bagelmaking. My bagels were on the flat side, and I don't know why. They were also on the outer limits of the acceptably chewy spectrum - I'd probably limit boiling to one minute per side next time to achieve optimal chewiness. But oh. my. gosh. This is it! This is the bagel that I crave but cannot buy here, the bagel that I thought I would only get to experience every 10 years at class reunions. I never in a million years would have thought that I could make these at home. I'm still sort of in shock.

Now, I got the feeling that I liked these more than anyone else who tried them. That could be just because I just like chewy water bagels more than most people, or because I'm so utterly bagel-deprived, or because I sweated these bagels for two days. But in any event, I loved them, and I plan to work these into my baking schedule at least once every couple of months.



Bagels are the third recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, which a couple of hundred of us are baking through as part of the BBA Challenge. Next up: brioche!

22 comments:

natalia said...

Ciao Cathy !Beautiful job !!! I was writing you a comment on the parisian tartlets and my internet connection went somewhere else : I have to be fast !!! I felt like you ! Except that if I want one I have to fly to London !!! Mine were much flatter than yours but I liked them anyway and will make them again for sure !!!

Natashya said...

Wonderful! I love a chewy bagel too.
They look great, so glad the family got involved too.
ps, I ended up ordering the brotforms from the States.. didn't want to be left out!

Pamela said...

Are those some salt bagels I'm spying there? Such a great job, Cathy!! I'm glad that they were a success for you!

Jess said...

Great job on the bagels! I feel for you, not having "real" bagels locally. I'm only 100 miles from NYC, and we have some pretty decent bagels, but nothing like H&H. Homemade is the way to go. Mmm, salt bagel!

Leslie said...

There's nothing like a chewy water bagel! The puffed up bready things at most national bagel chains are NOT real bagels! Yours look perfect, but we always want to improve our baking, don't we?

Pam said...

I am loving these bagels - they look so delicious. I am glad your little one was able to help you.

I'll be sending you your Pay it Forward package this week.

Bridgett said...

Wow, these look delicious and kudos to you for making your own bagels! How darling is your little girl helping in the kitchen?! So cute. I love it when my kids want to help.

Kayte said...

This was so much fun to read...I never knew anyone so devoted to a bagel before...I love the photo of the open one...looks beautiful inside and out. I was just looking at the recipe and I forgot to add the baking soda to the boiling water...hmmm, what was the purpose of that? Maybe mine will turn out even better next time if I remember that part! Yours look great, nice photos and a very fun post, as usual!

Lady Baker said...

love it!!! Heck living in upstate CT it's still near impossible to get that 'crunchy outside/chewy inside' combo of the NYC style! You should start selling them to the 'Bama folks, Cath! (or mail order to CT!)

Love YOUR little apprentice..Elizabeth already looks like a natural in the baking arena!

jillbert said...

Your bagels look awesome - the one that's sliced open looks perfect! I like a chewy bagel vs. the bagel shaped bread that they have at the grocery store.

Nancy/n.o.e said...

That is THE most perfect chewy-bagel crumb!! I share your excitement about the wonder of producing spot-on water bagels at home - would never have dreamed it. Great job, and fun to bake along.

Audrey said...

I'm so glad you've been able to recreate bagel heaven in your own kitchen...especially with your little angel helping out! They look wonderful. Wasn't it amazing to realize that you had made these? That (oh, and the eating) was the best part.

This "collapsing" thing is so not happened for me. It's like my dough decides to stand up and stay strong. It barely even sighs. I'm three for three on that.

As for the singing, I'm guessing the UPS man has heard worse. As long as you only sang one verse, it's probably OK. :)

Barbara Bakes said...

Great job! Now I'm wondering if I've ever had a great bagel. What method does Einstein's use?

What's for Supper? said...

Your little girl is so cute. I am going to be making these really soon. They look great. I am hoping that using regular bread flour will be OK?! I can't find any high gluten stuff.

Tracey said...

Congratulations on your bagels! I'm so glad you enjoyed them! I'm trying to work up the courage to try the cinnamon raisin bagels from BBA before the book is due back at the library. I don't have high gluten flour, though, and no time to order so we'll see!

And on a side note, your kitchen looks amazing! I want to come bake at your house :)

Debinhawaii said...

Chewy bagels are the best--here bagels are pretty much like hockey pucks! Yours look great!

Di said...

I really loved these, too. More than the other recipes I've tried. And I know what you mean about not being able to find the real thing--I have the same problem. And I love the picture of E helping. Getting her hooked on scale use early, I see. =)

bakingwiththeboys said...

Love chewy water bagels! I need to find time to try something like this. You are inspiring me!

Girl Japan said...

Ooooooo I need to know your secret... mine came out .. well they did not come out... = )

Sue said...

I'm likewise discovering Reinhart's book and particularly his Bagel recipe.
Like you, I've also been plagued by "flat" bagels. I've made the recipe 4 or 5 times, and I'm not getting any better. The last batch looked positively deflated (it was worse after boiling).

Did you ever make any progress on that problem?

SUGAR B said...

Nice job on the bagels! :)

Mermaid Sweets said...

Sorry I have been MIA, I have been so busy, but it has made me feel so bad not to have time to comment. Nice job on the bagels, I am too afraid of the work to try these. Noah's is down the street!

 
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