Friday, June 29, 2007

The Daring Bakers' Stalker


Hi, my name is ___ and I am a stalker. No, not the scary, warn your kids not to take candy from me sort of stalker. I am a "I have free time at work and found these cool food bloggers!" sort of stalker. I have recently been reading the blogs of foodies who belong to "the daring bakers" They come up with a different challenging recipe each month and they post on their progress. They are who inspired me to start this blog. The recipe and story that follows is my attempt to try their most recent challenge: BAGELS. My grandma would be so proud! Alas, the Goy side of my family shows in some of the results...

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
  • 4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
  • 6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups hot water
  • a bit of vegetable oil
  • 1 gallon water
  • 3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
  • a few handfuls of cornmeal

EQUIPMENT:

  • large mixing bowl
  • wire whisk
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • wooden mixing spoon
  • butter knife or baker's dough blade
  • clean, dry surface for kneading
  • 3 clean, dry kitchen towels
  • warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
  • large stockpot
  • slotted spoon
  • 2 baking sheets

OK, so far so good. The only thing I had to buy was cornmeal. Easy enough (turned out I preferred pam over cornmeal, but we'll get to that later)


HOW YOU DO IT:

First, pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers (a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.

Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. This is known as "proofing" the yeast, which simply means that you're checking to make sure your yeast is viable. You will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.

Yup, frothy brown stuff. Still good!


At this point, add about three cups of flour then the 2 tsp of salt on top (as per cream puffs in venice's suggestion) to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. I followed the author's directions and used one hand to mix, the other to pour. Eventually I got the 2nd hand wet and THAT is when it started going down hill.

When you have incorporated the first three cups of lour, the dough should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time. Soon you will begin to knead it by hand (if you're using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this segue is hardly noticeable). Sprinkle your work surface with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with one of your clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet and then wringing it out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the whole ball of dough covered with a very thin film of oil, which will keep it from drying out.

Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. This took about 30 minutes or so

While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup or sugar and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.

Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels. For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine. DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape your bagels. This will pusht them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity and give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike. (I used the hole method. Very lopsided but easy)

Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don't want to crowd them, and so there should only be two or three bagels simmering at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it's not a big deal, but it does mean that you'll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture.

Mine DEFINITELY were just floaters.

Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the countertop for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.

Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. (I tried this technique with less than stellar results, so I shook the cornmeal off after the 1st batch of bagels, sprayed the pan with pam, and it was much better). Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 mintues, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels. I didn't know what it meant by flipping, so i just turned the tray for even brownness.

Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool... hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.

Serve with good cream cheese.

TO CUSTOMIZE BAGELS: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place. I was bad, I made a few cinnamon sugar ones.




I also made cheddar and Italian seasoning (put the cheese on in the last few minutes), garlic, sesame and a personal fave, mozzarella basil.

YUM-O. they did turn out bread like, but so delicious anyway that no one cared. Overall verdict: Will try again cuz they are delicious, but don't expect them to replace real bagels. Other then clean up, it was rather easy. Alas, dishes await me in the sink!

2 comments:

Jess said...

I gave your a blog a shameless plug in my post this morning! :o) Let me know if you need me to test out any of your other stellar creations....mmmm delicious!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Nice job on the bagels! I made some cinammon sugar ones as well! ;)

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