Sunday, January 23, 2011

BBA #3: Bagels

BBA: bagelsThe BBA Challenge 2011 is on bread #3, bagels, this week. I've never tried my hand at bagels before, but have always been intrigued by the technique of boiling, then baking. These came off very well indeed, and I'll keep working on getting just the bagel I like from the process.

The dough was (unusually for bread!) just right as written--I used the stated amounts of flour and water without adjustment. The result is an extremely stiff dough, but satiny smooth. This time I did check both temperature and the windowpane test after machine kneading, and the dough was great. I made a half-recipe again, then made the bagels in an in-between size to get 9 from the half-recipe. I let mine cold-rise for the minimum time, and my test bagel floated immediately in cold water (and also the next day when boiling them--lots of yeast action in my bagels, I guess). I was surprised at how easy and fast the boiling process was. I guess I expected the risen bagels to take careful handling, but these are sturdy and could be picked up and dropped in the water without difficulty.

I boiled mine for 2 minutes a side in search of the very chewy bagels I remember from my first bagel experiences back in the mid-'70's when I moved to Atlanta for college and had a Jewish roommate. (Best I recall there were no bagels in south Georgia at that point. No good ones, certainly.) I eventually settled on a bagel bakery at Ansley Mall that had great bagels: dense, chewy, lots of flavor. That bakery is long gone, and I haven't found a substitute for the same style. Not that there aren't some good bagel bakeries in Altanta (and I got good bagels indeed on a trip to NYC a few years ago), but the general style of bagel has gone to a less-dense and often less-chewy version.

Toppings: My favorite is sesame, sister-in-law's is poppyseed. Chris's post sparked an attempt at asiago, as there just happened to be a chunk of asiago cheese in my fridge. Younger niece requested an everything bagel. "Everything", based on my pantry contents, turned out to be sesame seed, poppyseed, kosher salt, and reconstituted dried onion. No dried garlic chips in the house, so I sprinkled a little garlic power over the blend, too.

I used Rose's suggestion in The Bread Bible of an egg white wash to glue on my toppings. I'd be interested in a side-by-side comparison of the egg white wash vs. topping the bagel when it's damp from the boiling to see if one makes the topping stick better. Next time....

BBA: sesame bagelWarned by Chris's post about the very short stated baking time, I checked Rose's and found it bakes at 5 minutes at 500° (like Reinhart's), but then 20 minutes at 450. I tried Rose's timing on my first batch of 6, but thought those were a little overbaked. I found a blog note with Reinhart's suggestions for asiago cheese bagels (summary: bake 8 minutes at 500, rotate, then 8 minutes at 450), and that seemed about right for full-sized bagels. I'll cut back a minute or two next time I make my mid-sized version.

Tasting comments: Good bagels! Nephew and younger niece really liked the everything bagels, sister-in-law approved the poppyseed one, and I had an asiago one with lunch yesterday and a sesame seed one for breakfast. The texture is not as dense as my memory of that long-ago bagel, but these have good chew and a nice flavor. Definitely up for a repeat, and I'll be trying cinnamon-raisin with Reinhart's adaptation, too.

Edited to add the shot of a sliced bagel, and to note that last night sister-in-law said the kids would like the bagel supply moved to their house, as they'd eaten all I took over for tasting. Too bad, I was down to two, and those are breakfasts for me this week. Guess I'll make a full recipe next time...


  1. Your bagels look perfectly round with the right amount of topping. Not sure if you have any more left but I would love to see a picture of the interior, although I love your description of "chewy and nice flavor". Bagels have been on my todo list for... a very long time. My fav bagels are Panera's Cinnamon Crunch bagels. But I think I should start with "plain" bagels first before attacking something like THAT, ha ha.

  2. Nancy -

    Your asiago's look way better than mine! Nice! What's the bagel on the bottom left? It looks blue. Is that the poppy?

    Rose's baking timing turns out to be pretty close to what I did. Basically I did 7 at 500, then around 20 at 450. I still think, to be honest, they could have stood even a few more minutes. Adam had the same problem, though Sue said that 5 and 5 worked perfectly for her.

    I know ovens differ, but that kind of range on baking time seems a bit crazy!

  3. Thanks Nancy, your bagels look great!

  4. Your bagels looks great! I wish I had thought of the cheese, because it looks incredibly good. I baked mine for 5 at 500* and 9 minutes at 450*. I did notice though that where the oils/moisture from the onions touched the top of the bagel it didn't brown hardly at all. I also am at 3800 feet elevation, so some cooking time variation can be expected.

  5. @Hanaâ: sliced bagel picture added as requested! I paused before eating the last sesame bagel for breakfast and snapped a picture.

    @Chris: yep, the heavily coated poppyseed seems to have come out blue in the photo. Left to right is asiago, poppyseed, sesame seed, and everything.

  6. Beautiful results. I must keep the roll process under better control so I have a thicker bakel with smaller hole. Way to go!

  7. Beautiful interior, Nancy!! Just perfect. When I grow up I want my bagels to look like yours :o)

  8. Nancy, they look beautiful! I love bagels and have been intrigued by them. It's on my bucket list of to do, just need to find time. When I do get around to them, I hope mine will turn out half as nice as yours!