Sunday, May 31, 2009
BBA Challenge Week 3 - Bagels
I don't know if you know this about me, but I love carbs. It's why breakfast is my favorite meal. It's not because of omelets or sausage or bacon. OK, maybe a little about the bacon. No, it's mainly because the entire meal can consist entirely of carbs—pancakes, waffles, hash browns, cereal, cinnamon rolls, toast... and bagels. Ah, bagels. Chewy yet crusty, plain or with a schmear of peanut butter, savory or sweet—although I much prefer sweet, especially if we're talking about breakfast.
I've attempted to make bagels a couple of times and have ended up with something more suitable for a door stop than breakfast. So it was with as much trepidation as anticipation that I approached this week's BBA Challenge bread.
These bagels, as with many of the recipes in Peter Reinhart's book, are a two-day process. The first involves a sponge, waiting, mixing the rest of the ingredients, kneading, dividing, waiting, shaping, waiting and putting in the fridge for an overnight rest. This is called "retarding" the dough so that it has a chance to develop more complex flavors. You can even leave them for a couple of days before proceeding to the next steps.
Day one went swimmingly. The sponge got spongy, the dough came together nicely and kneading did its usual trick of making me feel like a strong pioneer woman (not THE Pioneer Woman, more of a "Mrs. Ingalls" kind of pioneer woman). But things weren't looking very promising 10 or 15 minutes into the kneading. I attempted to achieve a "windowpane"— stretching a small portion of dough until it's transcluscent—but mine kept tearing. I kept up the kneading for another 10-15 minutes, but it didn't seem to help.
So I did what any self-respecting home baker would do and gave up. Threw in the towel, hung up my apron. Kidding. I did give up kneading, but continued with the rest of the process, weighing hunks of dough so that each was approximately 4.5 ounces. I ended up with 11 full size and one around 3 ounces. I covered them with a damp towel and let them rest for 20 minutes while I poured myself a glass of wine and hoped for the best.
Next came the shaping. Resting the dough worked some sort of miracle, because the dough seemed just about perfect. I turned each roll into a rope, wrapped it around my hand and pressed the ends together to form the circles. I was feeling much better about the whole thing while letting the shaped bagels rest for another 20 minutes.
At this point, you have to do the float test. If a bagel floats in a bowl of water, you're ready put them in the fridge. My test bagel floated like a champ, so into the fridge they went. And I had another glass of wine.
Day two: boiling and baking. A straightforward day, consisting of—you guessed it—boiling and baking. It wasn't until I snapped my first picture that I realized I'd forgotten to put the baking soda in the pot of boiling water. A mistake easily corrected.
The bagels boil one minute for each side, then you slide them back onto the baking sheets and top with whatever strikes your fancy. I opted for sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and garlic for the savory ones. The rest were either straight turbinado sugar or cinnamon sugar. LOTS of cinnamon sugar. I was going for a Panera-esque look and taste for those. Unfortunately, my heavy-handed sugaring lead to my overly sensitive smoke alarm going off three times while the sugar overflow melted on the baking sheet.
As a result, I think I undercooked them a bit. The bagels were done, but the crusts weren't browned enough. Didn't stop me from consuming two of them as soon as they were cool enough to eat without burning my mouth.
The verdict: A bit too chewy with a not-as-crisp-as-I'd-like-it crust, but utterly delicious. I'll definitely make them again, just adjust the baking time to achieve the proper crust. Given some practice, I think these could rival any bakery-made bagel I've had.
Next week: Schedule some extra gym time, because we're making BRIOCHE!