about bliss

Saturday, May 30, 2009

daily bliss: bagel bliss

Day One: Saturday

My foodie bloggie friends Cathy, Nancy, and Wendy have joined yet another baking group, and are working their way through Peter Reinhart's tome The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Somehow, I found the restraint to *not* join them, though I was sorely tempted. However, I think I'll dip in from time to time, learning from their wisdom and making my own way.

Since good bagels are a thing of fantasy here in my corner of the world, having the ability to bake them myself would be invaluable. And so, I found a copy of the recipe over at smitten kitchen (isn't smitten such a swell word, really?) and set about ordering provisions for my bagel baking adventure. When the UPS man delivered my box of goodies from King Arthur flour earlier this week, on a cool and rainy day, I was giddy with thoughts of bread baking.

bagel making supplies

As I boldly declared to anyone who would listen that I was going to make bagels this weekend, my confidence increased. As I kneaded the recalcitrant bagel dough for an inordinate amount of time early this afternoon, I cursed myself and the dough. Is it possible to overknead? If it is, then I probably did it, in my quest for a perfect windowpane effect. Clearly I have much to learn about yeast baking.

bagel sponge

To form the bagels, I tried both the rolling method (make long ropes, and form them into circles) and the poke method (make balls of dough and poke a hole in the center), preferring the poke method for ease.

My bagels look a little uneven and misshapen, but that makes them all the more lovable, yes? They're resting in the refrigerator overnight...

Day Two: Sunday

I awoke at 7:30 this morning, flipped on Weekend All Things Considered just in time to hear the weekly word puzzle (yay!), and then made my way to the kitchen to start the coffee, heat the milk, crank up the oven to 500 degrees, and bring a huge pot of water, laced with baking soda and barley malt powder, to a boil.

Bagel time. (why am I now conjuring up M.C. Hammer?)

boil, toil, bubble, trouble

I dropped three bagels at a time in the roiling water, and allowed them to cook for two minutes on each side. Then, I removed them from the water, smeared the tops with egg wash, and then dipped them into one of my four toppings:

poppy seeds, cinnamon sugar, maldon sea salt, and parmesan peppercorn

Next, I baked them in the searing hot oven, five minutes and rotate pan, then five minutes more. I opened the oven door, set off the smoke alarm, and removed the very first bagels from the oven, as I finished the production of the remaining yeasty treats.

When the last batch was in the oven, I went out on the deck, leaned over the railing and called down to landlady/friend B to tell her the bagels were ready.

I gathered butter, strawberry jam (my penultimate jar from last summer!), peanut butter, havarti, and piave cheeses for possible toppings.

As I cut into the first poppy seed bagel, I noticed a light blistering on the golden exterior, and heard a lovely crunch as the knife slid through the outer crust. The interior looked lightly holey (hee! sunday morning holiness!), and I anxiously awaited B's verdict. Well, after I first took her plate away and turned off the overhead light in order to photograph the bagel.

"Oh, wow, these are good! You did a great job!"

I cut into one myself, spread it with butter, and took the first bite. Chewy. Flavorful. Bagel-ey!!!

I jumped up and down as B laughed.

We savored our bagels, coffee, and conversation, and B helped me arrange the bagels for their photo shoot on the deck. Look at this bountious bowl of breads!

There's a certain pride in taking on a task that seems challenging--a four page recipe with notes, is, after all, quite an undertaking. To be able to create something so beautiful *and* delicious, well, makes me beyond happy.


  1. Oh, what a lovely post, and those bagels are beyond gorgeous! I'd take parmesan pepper in one hand and salt in the other - surely you can spare 2?

  2. You did a marvelous job with your bagels - they look terrific! How cool that you could share them with your landlady!

  3. What a wonderful post and the bagels look AMAZING! You really did a fabulous job!

  4. Please Hammer don't hurt 'em. Wowowowowow! You completely nailed these bagels. Like you, I achieved (1) chewy, (2) flavorful, and (3) bagel-ey, but unlike you, I did not achive (4) round. I mean they are circular, but kind of flat. Not like yours - yours are perfect! I am going to try these again because I love them so (and because it is also impossible to buy a decent bagel in this neck of the woods, and because I have another bag of Sir Lancelot) so let me warn you in advance that I will be a Twitter nuisance as I try to learn your non-flat bagel secrets. You did an incredible job with these - hooray! I hope you bake with us often!

  5. These look *PERFECT*! great job. i can taste them, and feel the texture in my mouth. they look lovely.

  6. Anonymous1:56 PM

    Your bagels look absolutely perfect! Aren't they easier than you imagined?

    By the way, Peter Reinhart says it is almost impossible to overknead bread in a home kitchen. You'll either burn out your mixer or your arms will give out long before.

  7. thanks, everyone! i was *thrilled* with my bagel success.

    i just checked both of reinhart's books out of the library today and can't wait to learn more.

    and, i will have tons of questions for y'all as i start the bread baking over here, since i'm way behind y'all.