Monday, October 9, 2006

Today's Project

This week I've decided to learn a new baking skill.

One of our favorite breakfasts when we travel is bagels and schmear. My personal favorite is Einstein Brother's Bagels. Every day they have a different assortment of bagels, and a different assortment of schmears. Their sandwiches are also to-die-for, and make a very hearty lunch. (Try the Tasty Turkey if you ever get a chance!) Unfortunately for us, a good bagel is hard to find. The local grocery store here in Seymour makes terrible bagels. They have very little flavor, and definitely are not chewy enough to be considered a bagel.

Now when I was in high school, I had a friend who thought she could bake and cook. And we all ran as fast as we could from her offerings. But she had this great idea once to have a bagel making party, and we all contributed our hand at making hockey pucks with holes in the middle. In the end, we all walked away thinking that we could make bagels. When really, we made some pretty awful bagels. I tried one other time, following her recipe, and pretty much failed bagel making 101.

Today I turned to my trusty King Arthur Flour's Baking Companion for a basic how-to for bagels. I read it through and really was surprised at how easy they sounded to make. I set Zander up in the living room with his new favorite hobby, the computer, and got to work.

The hardest part of bagel making is the first 15 minutes or so. Because you have to knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, 15 would be better. I am one of those people who prefers to knead by hand. I just cannot achieve the same consistency baking with my KA Mixer as I can using my hands. By touching the dough, I can feel when it's achieved it's state of elasticity, and feel whether the moisture content is adequate. So when the first line in the directions said to knead vigorously for 10-15 minutes, I knew I was in for a workout. Once my hands got busy and my mind got busy though, the 15 minutes passed quickly, and I set the dough aside to rise.
Interestingly enough, bagel dough does not really rise, it swells, but it doesn't double in bulk. After about an hour, I cut the dough into eight sections, and turned that into smooth little balls of dough. I covered these with plastic wrap and let them rest for 30 minutes. While these little nuggets were resting and swelling again, I turned the oven on to preheat and got a pot of water on to boil. The water had both white sugar and brown sugar added to it. The recipe did say that I could use barley malt syrup, brown sugar, or a particular kind of malt powder. I only had brown sugar on hand, so that is what I used. I brought the water up just to a simmer, and by that time, the 30 minutes had passed, and the dough was ready for shaping.

Each ball got poked in the middle, and then stretched and whirled around my fingers to form a 2-inch hole in the middle. Then the bagels went for their bath. I could only fit a few at a time into the pot, but they got 2 minutes on the first side, and 1 minutes on the other side, before moving to a baking sheet covered in parchment. (Note to self: Use some cooking spray on the parchment next time.) They really swelled up during the boiling, and I got my first glimpse at the size of my bagels. It only took a few minutes to get 8 bagels on the pan and ready to pop into the oven. Look at the size of those beauties off to the right. By this point I was very excited about my bagels. They looked like bagels. But there was this tiny part of me that was remembering what it was like to eat those tiny hockey pucks with holes all those years ago.
Finally, the moment arrived. And here are my bagels baked and cooling. Oh my, it was difficult to wait for them to cool! Just when I thought I couldn't wait another second, they were cool enough to handle, and I eagerly bit into one. My teeth met with a beautiful resistance that could only come from a good bagel. I cannot wait to share these with Abigail and Andy. Zander is not as passionate about bagels, but he will quickly convert once he tries these babies. I cannot wait to play around with different additives and seeds and it will be interesting to learn how to incorporate whole grains into these without compromising that wonderful chewiness. These were definitely simple enough to bake up once a week or so, hopefully there will be bagels a-plenty for a while here. If anyone would like the recipe, please give me a holler and I will be happy to share with you.


veuveclicquot said...

oh yum! I love einstein bagels! Yours look delish. :)

chrispy said...

I like you prefer to knead bread by hand. I just got my husband hooked on bagels from our local grocery, but would love your recipe. The recipe I have is from the bread bible and she talks about lye and other caustic materials so I am totally scared to use that recipe.

Claire said...

These look GREAT!!! I've been wanting to try making bagels since school started. Could I get that recipe?

Gigi said...

Long time lurker...first time commenter. These bagels look amazing - do you mind sharing your recipe? Thanks!

Erika said...

Whew. I got the recipe posted for everyone, I would love to hear if anyone tries them. And of course, if there's any questions, please let me know.

Chrispy, I have The Bread Bible too, and while I've tried a couple of loaves out of there, most of them are really daunting to me. The King Arthur books are really written for the home cook and much more user friendly. I can't recommend mine enough.

Claire, it really is easy once you get going- and they're really cost effective too, so they're friendly to the girl on a budget.

Gigi- Welcome! I'm glad to see you come out of lurk-dom.