p3: Bagels

#24, Bagels

fresh-baked-bagels-4268-lgI’ve been wanting to do a recipe for bagels for quite a while, we’ve been stocking them more often in the pantry again, always a favorite breakfast snack! But there have been two distinct notes of opposition preventing me from doing this: first, of course, find a couple day period to spend making them, a pain when one keeps getting distractions or days that make you just not want to do anything. But the second, and bigger issue, is my recipe book’s requirement for “High Gluten Flour.” And no, this doesn’t mean just bread flour, high-gluten is a step higher than that and apparently instrumental to making those perfectly chewy bagels.

But apparently no one has it in stores, at least not the ones I’ve tried near me, and it is flipping pricey to buy online JUST for a bag of flour. So the thought was doomed, left to be procrastinated on for who knows how long. Thankfully, though, I ended up catching an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they made, gasp, bagels! In it they DID use bread flour, or mentioned it was still a viable substitute for their recipe, helping get my brain back on track to the idea of making these holey goodies. Found a recipe online that actually STARTED with the ATK recipe but made his own manipulations to get an end result that was a little more classic and refined [plus without all those extra little odd steps they do in the show, which makes an awesome recipe yes but not a very classic one].

20160217_002101A few notes, this IS one of the bread recipes where, much like pretzels, the proofed dough is dunked into a boiling water solution mixed with baking soda to gelatinize the outer layer for an even thicker and distinct crust after baking. The dough itself is made VERY firm and stiff; it is highly advised you do NOT try to man up to knead it and just use a stand mixer instead. Because even THOSE will be struggling to whip it around. And I mentioned the special ingredient of high gluten flour, but there’s another one: Malt Powder or syrup. Apparently they’re used as the sweet aspect in lots of bagel recipes, both for the yeast to eat and to add an additional edge of flavor to the final product [likely a continued nod to the older times where some bagel makers just used some cheap available leftover materials from their or other beer making]. The powder itself is sort of in the same category as the flour, likely needing to order it, but one can find Barley Malt Syrup rather easily in stores, which I LOVE using by the way. For anyone who’s made beer and had to start out using the syrups and powders alongside the malt, they know the concentrated almost-molassasey goodness that this offers! Need to find some other cool things to mix it into… oh, and fair warning, this mofo is STICKY as all hell. No matter what it will not just fall off anything naturally, so be warned with pouring!

Recipe 20160217_001752 6 cup High Protein/Gluten or Bread Flour
2 ¼ tsp Dry Yeast
1 Tb Kosher Salt
1/3 cup + 1 Tb Barley Malt Syrup or 2/3 cup Barley Malt Powder
2 cup Hot Water [88-100F]
1 Tb Baking Soda
Desired Toppings, if any
Egg White Wash [if topping]


  1. Combine Flour, Yeast, Salt, and Barley Malt Powder [if using] in stand mixer20160217_002316
  2. If using 1/3 cup Barley Malt Syrup, mix with Hot Water to dissolve, slowly streaming into the flour mixture while mixing on low speed [using paddle attachment]20160217_002608
  3. Once all loose flour has come together into a single mass, exchange paddle for dough hook and start beating around the dough on medium speed20160217_002739
  4. Mix for at least 10 minutes, and yes your mixer WILL be working hard to do this, until your sturdy dough is smooth and elastic20160217_004341
  5. Plop this on counter, loosely covering with plastic wrap or damp towel, and let rest at least 5 minutes to relax20160217_011256
  6. Divide into 12 even-sized pieces. Placing a piece between your palm, fingers bent like a claw, and the counter surface [or if it has NO traction like my counter, your other palm], roll the dough rapidly in circles until it forms a smooth boule. It can help to tuck parts of it into the back like with regular boule-making technique at first
  7. Take each ball, gently pushing a hole straight through the center with your finger/thumb, and begin working this hole out to at least 1½” wide by slowly turning and pressing evenly with your thumb [that whole “spinning around your finger” trick probably DOES work, but only if the dough is absolutely perfect to start out with]. Alternately, one can roll the dough into an even log and wrap around your palm, re-connecting the ends into a perfect circle. Good luck20160217_013512
  8. Transfer to cornmeal-dusted pan, cover with plastic and move to refrigerator overnight20160217_115621
  9. The next day, take dough out and prepare your water bath. Combine 1 gallon water, the 1 Tb Malt Syrup, and Baking Soda, bringing to a boil20160217_120518
  10. Dip 3-4 doughnuts into the water at a time, leaving to boil on one side for one minute before turning over for another minute20160217_121003
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack to drip for a bit and then to another cornmeal-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough. As this is going, preheat oven to 450F20160217_122514
  12. If sprinkling any toppings [I myself used a Lemon Flake Sea Salt on some], brush the tops and sides of your bagels with Egg Wash [1 tsp of water mixed w/ one egg white vigorously], then sprinkle as generously as desired, patting ingredients down and into it afterwards20160217_124754
  13. Move into oven, baking at least 15-20 minutes, turning 180 degrees halfway through cook time
  14. Once deep golden brown and baked through, remove20160217_124805
  15. Let cool half an hour before use or, if you’re cool, cut open immediately and cover those hot insides with butter and/or a schmear of cream cheese
  16. Enjoy

20160217_154230What Have I Learned This Time?

That I still need more work with shaping, these bagels were a pain trying to keep even and ‘perfect’ looking. At least those rough edges softened up by the final product through proofing and baking, but I may have to try the ‘roll and wrap’ technique for shaping if I ever do this again.

Bagels definitely do NOT need egg wash if there’s no topping; I much prefer their color when baked as-is, the others made me nervous of being in too long.

The benefits of using a slightly damp towel when resting certain doughs; the bagel dough definitely started to get one of those firm skins on parts of it before shaping, which made the process itself that much more difficult. I feel like it developed one rather fast too. Sadly I hadn’t noticed the ‘damp towel’ instruction in the recipe [and it might have just been in another one that I read earlier actually], but it definitely would have helped here.

Any Thoughts?

The end result comes reminiscent of pretzels… not surprising given the similar boil-bath before baking. Big, chewy, and for once with a crunchy exterior when eaten close to fresh, it’s a good version of a bagel. Can’t wait to try one in New York in a month or so to do a proper comparison.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It still thinks I need to work on my massage technique…


p3: No-Knead Bread

#12, No-Knead Bread

no-knead-bread-revisitedGoing into Saturday still without any real thought on what, or even if, I wanted to make for bread this week, especially with some other time-killing things I had in my schedule. But with a stroke of luck, my boss happened to bring up the idea of “No-Knead Bread,” a recipe made insanely famous by Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York, who seems to use the dough for just about everything in the shop. We watched the Youtube video of Mark Bittman going over the recipe with him, and of course I now just had to try it myself out of pure curiosity, simply to see what the end result was actually like.

So how does one actually make a bread without properly developing gluten? The secret is multi-fold. First, it relies on a VERY large bulk fermentation process, minimum 12 hours, to develop all those beautiful pockets and holes in the final bread, while also keeping the dough itself tender. There follows a step where one ‘folds’ this really soft and sticky dough over itself; I expect this helps to layer the air pockets to make a more thorough interior, making multiple smaller bubbles instead of just a layer of huge expanding holes. Finally, this bread is actually baked in a hot cast iron pan in the oven, helping it not only keep that thick and round bread shape instead of flattening out, as well as provide an environment for natural ‘steaming’ to expand it up while also assisting with the moist dough and crispy crust development. Though that’s all my theories backed up by no solid research (you know, cuz I’m lazy), so take them as you will. I’d like to just get to some quick-to-make hot bread.

Recipe 20150719_233245
3 cups Flour, AP or Bread
¼ tsp Yeast
1¼ tsp Salt
1 5/8 tsp Water


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, turning it into a thick batter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and leave to sit 12-18 hours, until greatly increased in size and top is dotted with bubbles.20150720_124603
  2. Carefully pull out, using fingers or oiled spatula, onto a very thoroughly floured counter, dusting the top heavily and making sure it goes flat, pressing lightly if it doesn’t do so naturally.20150720_124729
  3. “Fold” dough edges over, in a way as to sort of make 2-4 ‘layers,’ and cover with plastic or cloth. Leave to rest 15 minutes.20150720_124856
  4. Uncover, dust hands, counter, and dough with more flour and ‘shape’ into a general ball form. Almost like making a Boule, but with no actual effort in trying to make it the top smooth and tight; it just won’t cooperate.20150720_131629
  5. Transfer to a cloth/towel heavily dusted with cornmeal, wheat bran, or more flour. Pile more of this on top, cover with another cloth, and leave to proof 2 hours, until doubled in size.20150720_152320
  6. Place a large, cast iron dutch oven, or suitable substitute, in oven and turn to 500F.20150720_152523
  7. Turn towels upside down, take off the bottom, and quickly dump the dough, so it’s seam-side down, into the hot pan.20150720_154953
  8. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking in oven 10-15 minutes, until dough has darkened to a deep, rustic char.20150720_160637
  9. Remove from pan, upending onto cooling rack or cutting board, and enjoy as desired.

What Have I Learned This Time?

Might help to used oiled spatula or other tools for pulling and moving the dough next time, quite sticky.

20150720_152439Flour dusting… flour dusting, flour dusting, flour dusting. The recipe originally claims, after the rest period, to only put ‘just as much as needed to coat.’ Well f*%# that, it doesn’t work; you need a s*%#load, either just super-cover it initially so it almost turns into a smooth-topped dough, and/or keep doing it on everything. Even with a decent amount, this dough just keeps sticking to the counter and thing; which makes sense as there’s NO GLUTEN! I even put what I thought was a good, even, thorough coating on the cloth which it proofed on… well, you see the results of that. Though there is part of me that wonder if it would have resulted in something a little more manageable, as it seemed in the video, if I had used All Purpose Flour instead of Bread.

And as a follow-up, raw dough is a bitch to try and clean off of towels and other fabric.

Any Thoughts?

20150720_160942The final product certainly showed some distinctive traits. The crust acts as the sole flavor element, cooked to a very deep and charred, but not in an unpleasant fashion, way. As a result of its minimal gluten development, it also gets a uniquely crispy-crackling texture; heck, it was making rice krispy noises when I took it out of the oven. Thin and brittle as compared to the thick and crunchy hearth breads, but significant and enjoyable all the same in its own way. The inside has almost no bread flavor to itself, though when cool one can get just a BIT of that little yeastiness, but that’s not what we focus on. Instead we look at that beautifully bubbly crumb, displaying a visual right out of a photo shoot. Texture was interesting… if there’s any bread that feels almost ‘spongey,’ this is it; I mean, plenty of them do in one way or another, but there’s ‘fluffy spongey,’ ‘chewy spongey,’ ‘soft and buttery spongey,’ etc. This really does have that very light, springy give. All in all, a combination of things that can be seen as good or bad depending on what one’s looking for. At the end of the day, this no-knead bread truly puts itself into a category of its own.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Surprisingly, yes, but I don’t think this one really counts