Before I begin writing about yesterdays culinary adventures, I just want to call attention to my pal Cameron’s blog, where he describes his attempts to reproduce Lotte’s Afghans. It’s true that I find it quite a pain to have to weigh ingredients, as is often required by metric recipes. I don’t intend to start a debate about the merits of imperial recipes where everything is nicely pre-measured for you, and how counter-intuitive weighing every ingredient is (how much butter is 100 grams?!), I just find having to get out the kitchen scale, if you own one, a tedious and bothersome task.
So, for now, I proudly proclaim my American, and apropos to this post, Jewish heritage! While I do think in terms of kilometers, liters, kilos, and Celsius nowadays, the oven will always be Fahrenheit to me, and I will always make a cake with 1/3 cup of butter, 2/3rd a cup of milk, 1 1/2 cups of flour, and 1 cup of sugar (plus 1 egg, baking powder, salt, and almond extract).
I love bagels. I love fresh-out-of-the-oven sesame bagels from St. Viateur at 2 am. I love them with cream cheese, smoked salmon, and capers. I love garlic and onion bagels, despite the price my friends will pay when I speak to them after eating one.
Bagels are expensive here in New Zealand, and from my experiences, mostly the mass-produced pre-packaged kind available in super markets.
I have tried making bagels once before, when I lived in West Africa and bagels did not exist in the country. I had a lot of free time and a dog-eared, paperback copy of my bible, “The Joy of Cooking”. It was really in this period when I discovered “The Joy”. I suppose one of these days I will have to write a post entirely dedicated to this book which I love. Anyway, I knew bagels could be done.
On Saturday morning I decided I wanted to make rye bread (another eastern-european favorite I haven’t found meeting my expectations in this country!) so I threw some rye flour, yeast, and water into the bread machine, and then ran out to do stuff while it was rising. I then totally forgot about it until the following morning, when a sudden hunger for bagels with the smoked salmon cream cheese I had bought overcame me.
I took out my bible and looked up the recipe. With a few modifications, and really, not too much effort, I had a dozen rye & whole meal bagels hot out of the oven, ready to be smeared with some schmear!
The Joy tells us to make bagels as following (slightly modified version):
- 1 cup + 2 tbs warm water
- 2 tsp dry active yeast
- 2 tsp sugar
- Let sit until the yeast gets frothy.
Combine in a bread mixer, or knead by hand for 10 minutes:
- 1 tbs butter or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup bread flour
Gradually stir in
- 3 more cups of bread flour (feel free to mix it up with other flours, like wholemeal, spelt, rye, etc., but make sure you use at least 1/2 white flour, and be aware the consistency, texture, dryness, gluten content etc. will be different. You can also mix extras into the dough at this point, or wait until the end)
Let the mixer do its work, or work up a sweat yourself on that. I hate kneading bread, so moving into a house with a bread machine was certainly exciting. I found my dough to be really dry and dense (perhaps because of the rye flour?), so I had to add another 1/2 cup of water. But I tend to eyeball stuff rather than actually measure, so I may have been wildly off in my initial flour/water ratio.
After it’s been kneaded, form the bagel by rolling a handful of the dough between your hands until it’s about 4 cms or 1.5 inches thick and 20 cms or 7 inches long, then forming it into a ring and sealing the ends together with a little water if they don’t stick. Try to make about 10 or 12. Let them rise on a floured surface covered with a towel for about 15 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, then drop the bagels into the boiling water once they have puffed up. Let them boil about 1 minute on each side. Have an oven pre-heated to 425 F, and then pull the boiled bagels out of the water and place them onto an un-greased baking sheet. Cover them in sesame seeds, chopped garlic or onion, throw in raisins and cinnamon or other stuff, experiment! Bake them for 15 minutes, flip them over, and give em another 5 or 10 minutes. I found they were done after 20 at about 415 F, but our oven is a little crazy. I recommend an oven thermometer for anyone who does a lot of baking. Anyway, keep your eye on them so they don’t burn.
Once done, allow your flatmates to eat them but they must slice them and then toast them if not eaten immediately (I’m talking to you, Louis). The dozen I made yesterday are half gone already!