Sunday, September 13, 2009

BBA Challenge #3: Bagels!

I started making Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe this past spring when I stumbled on the recipe Deb had posted on Smitten Kitchen. I had not had much bread baking experience (maybe four loaves in my whole life), but they were so tasty that I made them quite often this spring and summer. So this was the first time in the BBA Challenge where I felt very confident going into the baking, didn't have to double-check and re-read things dozens of times.

Nonetheless, having the experience of the Anadama bread and the Artos, plus having read his entire first section, plus following his actual recipe with photos, I did find that things went better than before.

My sponge with this recipe (unlike the last two breads) has never given me a problem and was beautifully bubbly and doubled after two hours.

Knowing how stiff this dough is, I always start it in the KitchenAid, which I did again today. Oh, I did have one little mishap however! I was getting all set to weigh my additional flour into the bowl with the sponge (I love working with weights rather than measures! So much easier, so much more accurate, so much less mess!) when my scale shut off! I had just poured in the first little bit...argh! Luckily because the the sponge is so wet and the new flour was dry, I was able to scrape most of it off and start again...and I know that you always end up adding more flour, but still! GR!

Anyway, I started with the KitchenAid and then moved to the counter. Oh, and here's another little odd tidbit: I always, always, always have to add extra flour when I'm kneading. Today, whether it's because it's not as humid out or because I have had experience with truly sticky dough (in the Anadama and Artos), I not only didn't have to add any extra, I barely used the remaining 3/4 cup of flour that you work into it at the end!

After 6 minutes of kneading, the dough was registering over the correct temperature (85 degrees) but hadn't achieved the windowpane yet. I always have trouble with the windowpane test on this recipe, but I decided to keep kneading. After another 6-8 minutes, it was at the same temperature, a slightly better windowpane, and my arms were tired.

Here's where a couple of lessons I've learned from this book came in very handy. First of all, I never knew that you weren't supposed to rip dough because it damages it, that instead you should cut it. So I used my bench scraper to divide the dough, and I could really see a difference. Instead of being a...blob of sticky dough, the little dough balls really seemed to maintain the same satiny texture they'd had when I was kneading. Also, I've always just rolled the dough into balls between my two hands, but this time I followed his instructions for how to roll dough into balls using a slightly damp counter and the palm of my really seemed to work!

After spending the night retarding in the fridge, this morning I boiled them in water with a touch of baking soda, topped them, and threw them into the oven.

A few notes:
* I make mini bagels (measuring the dough into 2.25 oz balls), although they really don't seem mini to me. They are perfect size for me and for the kids (although the hubby likes to have two).
* I make plain (for the kiddos) and everything (for everyone else). Everything = kosher salt, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic flakes, and onion flakes.
* I have never been able to find high-gluten flour around here, so I use bread flour plus extra wheat gluten.
* I was able to find barley malt syrup at our local Whole Foods.

"Every time I eat a bagel, I get a little angry at my parents for not teaching me the proper way to eat bagels long long ago." ~ the hubby


  1. Everything bagel with cream cheese, tomato, and red onion...of course. =)

  2. I'm playing BBA catch up, too! Just finished bagels tonight and will probably post later this week. Had a lot of difficulty incorporating all the flour. Took ten minutes to knead all the flour in and another 20 to get the windowpane. They taste and look great and the kids love them.

  3. This "Everything" topping is something I have to keep in mind because it looks great. Taste-wise my bagels turned out really fine, but they were kind of flat and therefore looked a little weird, I think.

  4. I never knew the proper way to eat them, either. Now that I am in my fifties and starting to grow up, I guess I will have to try tomato that is not in the form of ketchup. Hey, I had asparagus on my pizza yesterday, so you never know...