When I first heard of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge I paged through Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book. The Challenge is to bake each recipe of the book in order, and although I already knew I liked the book, I had to see if I could really bake every one of the “formulas” (what Reinhart calls his bread recipes) in it. A couple of the breads clinched the deal for me - I wanted the structure of the group to force me to make them sooner rather than later. Bagels and ciabatta were my top two, and they come early in the alphabet (and thus early in the challenge)! The bagel pages are especially enticing, as Reinhart gives a page-long introduction to the type of bagel he sought to make and why he believes his formula produces a “bagel for the ages”.
A “bagel for the ages”? Sign me up! I grew up in the suburbs of
I baked these a couple of weekends ago, because I was about to lose reliable access to my kitchen (we’re refinishing the hardwood floors and repainting the main level of the house). Bagel baking seemed like an exciting challenge - a series of steps spread over two days, including a choice of shaping methods, and boiling the bagels in water before baking at relatively high heat.
To make it more fun, a bunch of my baking cyber-buddies were making their bagels at the same time and we were able to compare notes via Twitter – and pictures via Flickr. I know that I’d enjoy baking alongside them in person (someday, maybe!), but for now a virtual bake-along is the next best thing. The coolest part is that everyone's bagels turned out well!
I’m going to reverse my normal order and give the verdict first! I baked the first batch when J.D.E. was here with her friend G. We ate them toasted with butter – we’re not cream cheese people. The bagels were a huge hit with everyone! The crust was shiny and a bit tough, just like it should be, and the inside was moist and chewy. The little bit of malt powder gave them an authentic bagel-shop flavor.
Of all the new things that I’ve baked in the past year, these bagels are the most gratifying. They were every bit as good as those from an excellent bagel shop, but they came from my kitchen! I know that I will bake bagels again and again.
The bagels in my first batch were a bit flatter than I’d like, but I soon fixed that. I was so excited about making bagels that the following day I baked two more half batches: plain and Greek Celebration flavor! The part whole grain Greek Celebration-flavored bagels that I made tasted like an extra-delicious version of a cinnamon-raisin bagel.
- You can find the bagel recipe , here, but I have to say that the book provides lots of essential baking information which makes the formulas much easier so it’s well worth buying.
- For my first try, I made 1/2 batch. The formula makes a lot of dough, and I wanted to be able to handle (and bake) it all.
- I mixed the bagels entirely by hand, and my dough took just over 5 minutes of kneading.
- My only error was to add the yeast to the flour instead of to the soaker. Although instant yeast is commonly added to bread dough with the flour, no so in the case of bagels, as apparently it could produce yeasty hot spots. Luckily my mistake didn’t seem to make any difference in my bagels.
- I made each bagel 3.5 ounces and formed them with the poke-thumb-through-ball method. I got 8 bagels from the half batch of dough.
- The bagels turned out a bit flatter than I would have liked, but otherwise the texture and taste were great.
Tower of skinny bagels seconds before collapsing backwards over the deck rail into the ivy bed!
- This time I used 4 ounces of dough for each bagel, and formed them with the roll-and-squeeze-rope method. I could tell right away that they would be nice and fat!
In the picture above, you can see the new improved plump bagel on the left and the original batch, thinner bagel on the right.
I was inspired by the bagels that Pinkstripes made, using the spices and fruit of the Greek Celebration bread, so my third half-batch was a similar concoction. Here’s what I did:
- I added 3.5 oz white whole wheat flour, 2 oz of rye flour, and 1 tsp vital wheat gluten to the soaker. The rest was high gluten white flour, as was all of the flour I added at the dough stage. I also doubled the yeast.
- To get that Greek Celebration flavor, I added:
1 cup of mixed raisins and dried cherries, rinsed and dried and dredged in flour.
- The Greek Celebration bagels took an extra 5 minutes to bake in the oven, probably because of all the ingredients I added.
2 T brown sugar
2 T honey
3/4 tsp mixed spice
3/4 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
I can't wait to make bagels again! I've already sourced some new ingredients. The first time I used diastatic malt powder and Lancelot high gluten flour that I ordered from King Arthur. Since then, I've located barley malt syrup at Whole Foods (on the honey shelf). And last week while I was on the other side of town on an errand I stopped in the oh-so-wonderful Alon's Bakery here in Atlanta. I bought some of their AMAZING ciabatta (we haven't gotten to the "C's" yet in the BBA book...), and figured I'd take a chance and ask about some specialty flours. The baker had no 00 flour or chestnut flour, but she was happy to scoop out 10 pounds of high gluten flour from the bakery's stash, which she sold me for $7.00. I'll be able to make a few batches of bagels with that flour!
In about a week, I'll post a round-up of the bagels of the BBA Challenge Slow & Steady subgroup. Our next bread recipe is Brioche (still in the "B's"!) which I'll post in two weeks.
Sending these bagels to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of all things yeasty.