fat free opinions on a food centric life

Bagel Challenge: Rustic Results

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Bagels.  Those amazing carb-filled puffy, but not quite bread-like breakfast essentials.
  Bagels.  The most recent Daring Bakers challenge.  In fact, not just any bagel, but "Real Honest Jewish Purist Bagels" to boot.  Okay.  Sign me up.  I’m in.  Anything but a St. Honore Gateau.  Really.

Jenny at All Things Edible and Freya at Writing at the Kitchen Table are the hosts of this month’s wholesome challenge.  And thanks to them, a challenge that was much fun, and most likely to be repeated — a rarity for me.  Since I didn’t get the last challenge posted on time, I promised myself I’d be on top of this one! 

So bagel day dawned, or something like that.  Actually, my mom came over.  We never cook together so that isn’t the point, but she was in my kitchen on bagel day to assist as needed.  Or just to visit, which is a completely different thing.  "Needed" ended up being defined as: reading the directions aloud even though I had already done so a bejillion times.  Persistently telling me that I should set the timer when the bagels were doing their watery dance, commenting on the type of scoop I was using to fish them out, and then, finally, scooping them out herself.  Yes.  Helping.  Oh, and tasting the end result, of course.  Thank goodness for moms!  Her presence certainly did make the experience a lot of fun.

Ahem…Bagels.  Not a bad experience, all things considered.  The last time I made bagels was in college.  I have a vague memory of something strange in the water like lye.  Red Devil Lye to be certain.  And no one died, so it must have been okay.  But I’m relieved that lye wasn’t one of the ingredients in this particular bagel recipe which was very straight forward. 

When I first read that we were expected to make bagels, I thought, okay.  No problem.  And then the whole idea of making something a bit special occurred to me.  What about the filling?  Thoughts of cream cheese with smoked "this" and seasoned "that" began, and then I thought about what I appreciate about a bagel:  basic, chewy dough, with butter.  Maybe a combo of toppings somewhat like those I find and enjoy on  bialys.  Yes.  LIke that.

When I began thinking about purchasing ingredients for the bagels, flour was first and foremost.  I considered a flour with a high gluten content and ended up purchasing a small bag of Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour.  I saw it, had bagels on the brain, and threw it into my cart.

After I got home, I began to think about it, and read about making bagels in a variety of sources. I ended up deciding to go back to the store to look for something that might be more in line with the "rules" of the exact recipe.  After all, the Bob’s Red Mill flour says it can be added to bread dough, and bread dough wasn’t what I was supposed to be looking for with my bagels.  Besides, the bag only held 22 ounces, so I decided to save this flour to try out the "Honey-Oatmeal Bread" recipe printed on the back label another day, and dove into my "Real Honest Jewish Purist Bagel Daring Baker Challenge."

A few "issues" to mention…

First:

I purchase yeast in packets.  The dry yeast comes in three separate packets.  When I see a recipe that calls for "4 tablespoons dry baking yeast," that means I have to open the packets and measure.  If I remember correctly, 6 packets equals 4 tablespoons.  I had to measure it twice just to make sure.  *sigh*

Second:

I never considered wandering around to look for malt syrup.  I’m usually more adventuresome, but I decided to save myself some serious money by avoiding Whole Foods.  I knew that if I even thought I might go there, I’d end up buying all sorts of things I’d have to fashion into dinner.  So no malt syrup.

Third:

I began making the dough with my mom sitting at the counter talking a mile a minute.  I did take the time to see how hot the water was for the yeast, because in past experiences, water that is too hot kills the yeast leaving the end result a good substitute for a hockey puck.  Img_2164Although the idea of fingers in the hot water stirring the sugar sounds lovely (and I did it just for hoots), my fingers don’t register heat like they should, and I know the water would have been hotter than necessary.  So measure I did.  105-110 degrees F works extremely well.

Fourth:

The dough came together very nicely.  Since the directions called for hand mixing and kneading, I was game.  That meant I didn’t need to heft down my Kitchen Aid mixer from the upper cabinet, risking life and limb.  Thank goodness!  So I did use only one hand to mix and used the other to take pictures just so you would believe that I followed the directions!  How cool is that?  The dough was lovely to work with, so I didn’t miss my mixer at all.  Img_2166

Fifth:

I had an errand to run.  I had to take my son to a friend’s house.  I thought about the amount of time the dough should rise, and figured that my errand wouldn’t cause any problems.  Of course, I didn’t expect summertime traffic at lunch hour to be so bad and well, the dough was oozing from underneath the cover I placed over it by the time I returned.  It was very spongy, and easy to punch down.  Look at all that  wonderful dough spilling over the edge of the bowl!  Img_2170

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From there on out, things went according to the recipe plan.  I chose the "poke a hole in the middle" method of forming my bagels. They did look a bit sphincter-like, which isn’t exactly appetizing to mention, but it was pretty funny and my mom and I had a good hoot over it. When they sat for a bit to rise, most of the holes nearly closed, and they became such fat little morsels! 

While they were sitting, I prepared the egg wash and my toppings:  fresh chives, garlic, shallots, dried red peppers, parmesan, and blue cheese.  I did make a topping that combined a few together just to have fun.  Img_2176_2

Cooking the Bagels

Keeping the water at a barely shimmering simmer was interest   And it’s not like I don’t have choices on my gas stove.  The water was either boiling, or flat.  Never in between.  The bagels never dropped to the bottom of the kettle before floating to the top — they simply stayed on top.  I timed them after my mother nagged me to death — precisely 3 minutes on one side, then three minutes on the other.  This took a very long time.  By the end, the poor bagels waiting their turn were so tired of rising, they became deflated when I picked them up to place them in the hot water.Img_2173

And the dish towel prepared to place the bagels fresh out of the hot water?  My mother chose a terry towel.  Do I need to say the bagels stuck?  Not really a problem, but funny at the time. Were the bagels pretty and shiny after sitting on the towel?  Not really.  But I sloshed on the egg wash just the same, and sprinkled on the toppings to prepare for baking.   Img_2175

Baking the Bagels

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Because I decided to put toppings on the bagels, I chose not to flip them over before cooking them an additional 10 minutes.  I also cut back on the time by five minutes.  If I had left them in for the whole time specified, I believe they would have been very brown and dry. 

After taking them from the oven and letting them sit for about 15 minutes, my mom and I had fun sampling the different flavors.  The texture was "bagelly," the crust crunchy, and the toppings just fine.  Nothing spectacular, but good just the same.  There were exactly 15.  Exactly.  My mom made sure of it because that’s what the recipe said. Img_2179

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I did find myself wondering whether those bagels we occasionally purchase at the grocery store bakery counter, or the bagel store are "honest" bagels. 

My bagels were real and honest.  Honest.  And the guys in the house liked them, too.  Beautiful?  Uh….nope!  No matter.  I had fun and can’t wait to see what the next Daring Bakers Challenge is.
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