Monday, June 15, 2009

Bagels {bba}

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 New York City, and a good chewy water bagel – the kind that Reinhart’s formula promises – was the stuff of my childhood. The gods can keep their ambrosia; I’ll be happy with a toasted bagel and butter for my perfect food. I’ve been able to find decent bagels in Atlanta, notably at Goldberg’s Bagel Company & Deli and the now-defunct Snack N’ Shop Deli, but I never considered it possible to make good, much less superior, bagels at home.

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!

The verdict:

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.

n.o.e.’s notes:

- 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.

First Round

- 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!

Second Round

- 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.

Third Round

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.
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
- The Greek Celebration bagels took an extra 5 minutes to bake in the oven, probably because of all the ingredients I added.

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.


Audrey said...

First of all, after all this bread baking, not to mention dessert making, I would like to thank you for using the words "new improved plump" right in a row. I usually only think of one of those at a time. :)
Your bagels look perfect! It was fun making them with you and everyone, and I'm so glad that you enjoyed them...I agree they were so, so good. I'm going to try your flour-shopping tip...and I'm definitely going to make bagels again. A bagel shop near my old home in CT had a spinach bagel that I have never seen anywhere else, and I wouldn't mind re-creating that flavor, among others!

Melissa Clifford said...

Those are the best! Look at that interior! Peter would be proud of you...great hole formation.

Megan said...

Between you and Audrey, I have come to the conclusion that the roll and squeeze method produces the fatter, plumper bagels.

I tried the poke method the last two times, and both times the bagels came out flat.

Di said...

Oh, wow! All your bagels look great, Nancy. I'm with you--I'd much rather have butter on my bagels than cream cheese.

Natashya said...

Wonderful bagels! They have been my favourite bread so far too. Love the tower'o'bagels.

Cathy said...

Your bagels are a vision of beauty. Everything, from the crust to the crumb to the color, is perfect. I definitely think that bagels are my happiest baking accomplishment. It is so great to know that we can make these at home (although next time, it's the rope method for me -- and saving some bagels to toast with butter!)

Sarah said...

Your bagels came out beautifully! I loved these too, and I'll definitely make them again. I used the poke method, and all but two bagels stayed pretty plump - the first two I boiled, before I figured out how to handle them... I'll be interested to see if I get a different result with the roll method next time I make these.

natalia said...

Ciao Nancy ! How beautiful ! You really bacame an authority in bagels !!! I love them too but minr were abit flatter ! would you like me to send you 00 flour and chestnuts flour ?

natalia said...

Thank you Nancy ! i've just opened my twitter account.. do you use a mobile too ? I have to learn about it !!

susies1955 said...

I WANT THESE. :) SO perfect looking.
Great job,

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Just incredible how much is learned by doing something more than once! I love your celebration seasoning bagels!!!
I've done that refinish the floors deal; it's a chore but the results are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Your bagels look wonderful. Even your "flat" ones look wonderful. If you didn't say they were flat, I wouldn't have noticed.

Tracey said...

Your bagels look so amazing! I really, really want to snag one of those cinnamon raisin bagels for breakfast in the morning :) I can't wait to try my hand at them.

TeaLady said...

UUUMMM!!!! Bagels. I have been wanting to try but a little leary. You inspire me to try.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

It's been really fun to see all the BBA people making bagels and having such a good time with them and realizing thatthey can be made well at home. Bagel shops everywhere are going to notice a definite decline in their business, I think. Those Greek Celebration bagels sound awesome!

Jess said...

Your bagels look incredible. I'm inspired by all the BBA bakers - I'm years away from being ready to tackle these recipes, but I'm enjoying reading about your efforts nonetheless.

Elra said...

Perfect bagels. You beat me here, I never made it myself.

Hillary said...

Very nice bagels! I've now made challah, next thing up is bagels! :)

Engineer Baker said...

Gorgeous! I am so impressed that you made them three times - I made them once, a quarter recipe, and managed to eat them all before photographing them. Oops!