Update Feb. 4: I made these again this weekend (third batch), yummy. This photo is of batch 3.
For Update Feb. 28, see below.
Tackling two of my favorite breads
Thanks to Nicky of Delicious Days, I no longer have to travel far to sample two of my favorite breads. I've described before how pleased I was to make Liguria-style crunchy-tender, olive-oily focaccia. And now New York seems a little closer as I've just discovered I can make bagels in my own kitchen. Not only that, but gone is my fear of baking with yeast. Both of these recipes were very easy. I don't even have a Kitchenaid, and still managed to knead the bagel dough to the right consistency.
But are they authentic?
At least I think they're the right consistency. I'm not a New Yorker (though I did live in Brooklyn for over a year), and will have to defer to my friends from over there to judge whether these bagels pass muster. I know a bagel should not resemble bread in a doughnut form. I know my friends feel strongly that the only way to warm a bagel is to heat it uncut, in the oven. I suppose this preserves its chewy inside texture. But as a bagel novice, I think these homemade ones may be the right combination of chewy and tender, not too bready, with shiny slightly crackling crusts that aren't too crunchy. I look forward to submitting them to the experts' opinions.
First batch, first mistake
I made two batches. The first came out too crunchy, but perhaps that was because, busy with making dinner while at the same time taking pictures, I left the plastic bowl with the rising dough on a hot stove top.
It melted, as I was taking this photo to the right (after one hour of rising). The bottom of the dough didn't burn, but basically baked into a crust. I threw out the bowl and any of the dough that didn't seem supple and elastic, but I still think the extra heat from the stove did bad things to the yeast.
The following two photos were taken of this first batch. Left: the bagels simmering before baking. Right: the final result, tasty but hard lumpy things.
Quick learning curve
So today I made another batch, and it rose beautifully. I was worried my kitchen was too cold (25 to 27°C I believe is the ideal rising temperature) so I put the dough in the cold oven. I also used my new thermometer that beeps if it gets too hot, which was lucky, as the oven started heating up, apparently simply from the fermentation process. I opened the oven door a crack and all went well.
Shaping still a challenge
I still have to work on improving the shapes of the bagels. Nicky's bagels are so smooth and rotund, they make me think of my children's cheeks. My bagels were much more uneven in shape.
But otherwise I would say this batch was a total success. And easy to make.
Changes to the recipe
The following are the changes I made to the recipe after my first semi-successful batch. I know the major culprit was probably melting the mixing bowl... Still, I do like to cross-reference recipes and found the following ideas in several recipes from the internet. It's hard to say if these changes are in any way responsible for the better results I had the second time around.
- I added about 1 or 2 tspn of sugar to the dough, as all other recipes called for some sugar
- After kneading I placed the dough in a slightly oiled bowl and turned the dough around in the oil to coat it so it wouldn't dry out during the rising process. My first batch was somewhat dry, but again that may have been from the burst of heat to which it was subjected...
- I used a warm wet towel to cover the bowl during the rising, again in the hope the dough wouldn't dry out.
- I made slightly larger bagels than Nicky recommends. While I agree small is cute, I don't like too high a crust-to-inside ratio.
- I added two tablespoons of molasses to the simmering water. Many recipes talk about malt syrup, which I certainly don't possess, and a few suggested molasses as an alternative, which I happened to have on hand. Sugar might also do the trick it seems.
- I turned over the bagels after 30 seconds of simmering to make sure the other side was simmered as well. I actually tried simmering them longer for my first batch, as many recipes suggest 3 minutes on each side, but it appears a total of 1 min. is sufficient as my second batch had a nicer crust. Then again, so many variables changed from one batch to the next, it's hard to tell which factor caused the better crust.
- I brushed the bagels with a mixture of egg white, water and salt, to make the sesame seeds and/or salt adhere better, and to make them more shiny and brown.
- I increased the heat to 220°C, then quickly became nervous and lowered it back to 200°. For some reason my oven, which is usually quite regular, browned the bagels unevenly, so I had to turn the pan around at the mid-point. Perhaps I shouldn't have fooled with the temperature.
Below is the recipe directly copied from Delicious Days (without the changes listed above). Thanks again Nicky!
Source: Delicious Days
Recipe source: Fingerfood (Eric Treuille & Victoria Blashford-Snell), p. 121, adapted
Prep time: 30min., rising time: ~90min., baking: 10-15min.
Ingredients (yields 16-20 mini bagels):
250g white flour (I used type 450)
1 tsp salt
165ml lukewarm water
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp dry yeast
poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc.
1. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl and make a little depression in the middle. Then pour water and olive oil into the depression and sprinkle dry yeast on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes.
2. Either use your kitchen machine or knead by hand until the dough becomes smooth, shiny and elastic. Add some more flour if it feels too sticky. Again, let the covered bowl rest at a warm place for about 60-90 minutes (size of dough should have doubled by then).
3. Preheat oven to 200°C (392°F). Punch down the dough, and shape about 16 to 20 equally sized little balls. Now comes the fun part: You can either use your index finger (poke it in flour first) or the handle of a wooden spoon to create a hole in the middle and try to give each bagel a nice look. Be sure to make the holes a notch larger than you’d think is necessary, they tend to quickly close up as the bagels rise and bake.
4. Heat up a pot of saltwater and bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer. Send bagels into the hot water for about a minute (they’ll float on top) and remove with a skimmer. Imagine wrinkled fingers after a long hot bath - yep, that’s what they look like now.
Note: You could now brush some egg yolk over the bagels to give them a darker (and more yellow-ish) color. We tried with a few and found the original color to be much nicer looking.
5. Sprinkle with sesame, poppy seeds or other seeds/spices of your choice and bake in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooled down a bit you can serve right then and there, but they also taste phenomenal the next morning, straight from the toaster with cream cheese and jam.
Update Feb. 28:
Below is batch number 5. I'm really enjoying baking bagels, the smell of yeast in the kitchen, and seeing the kids enjoy them as much as we do. I've learned a bit more about making pretty shapes thanks to detailed descriptions on All Recipes. These were shaped with the help of my four-year old, who loved poking her finger in the dough and swinging the dough around her finger (or trying to).
These contain about 30% wholewheat flour (which I find is a little too much). I make a double batch now and divide the dough in 12 pieces for larger bagels, or 16 for small bagels (but not tiny). I include 2 teaspoons sugar in this double batch, and boil them in water that contains two tablespoons molasses.
I still have to figure out how to prepare them so we can have them fresh for breakfast. I've tried forming the bagels and storing them in the fridge overnight before boiling, but the yeast must have continued its work for too long and they kind of deflated, making rather flat if tasty bagels. This time, following All Recipes advice, I've frozen a few bagels before the boiling stage, and will thaw them overnight in the fridge, then bring them to room temperature before boiling and baking. We'll see how that turns out. I'm also counting on my friend Tanya who is making multiple trials of this recipe to figure out how morning bagels can be achieved with minimal morning work.