Home Bread-Bakers v104.n015.6

More On Bagels

"Michael C. Zusman" <mczlaw@pacifier.com>
Sun, 14 Mar 2004 08:49:02 -0800

Although on the left coast, my bagels have achieved some renown.  Comments 
on some prior recipe ideas and additional thoughts:

(1) Do not let dough rest on the bench, nor allow bulk dough nor bagels 
once formed to rise.  We are trying for dense and chewy, not puffy and light.

(2) Use high gluten flour or a less strong flour fortified with a bit of 
vital wheat gluten.  The aim is for a tough, elastic dough.  We don't much 
care about extensibility with bagels.

(3) I like to use a portion of fermented flour (i.e. starter culture) 
rather than all plain flour and water.  Especially with minimal dough 
fermentation time, this is a key flavor component.

(4)  For flavor enhancement and for the perfect crust texture, retarding is 
an absolute must.  Those pre-bagels need to sit under refrigeration for at 
least 12 hours, preferably a full 24, so they form a distinct skin.  I 
think a better skin forms without a towel on top, though it may avoid odors 
from other items in your 'fridge.

(5)  Boiling should not exceed 10 seconds per side.  Count 10, then flip, 
count another 10 and remove from your kettle.  All we are trying to do is 
gelatinize the proteins on the surface of the dough to aid crust 
formation.  We are not "cooking" the bagel in the water.  Again, we want 
dense, not puffy.

(6)  Keep 'em small and use your scale.  We all have scales by now, 
right?  Scale off each bagel at 3 to 3.5 oz.  Real bagels are small, not 
those big doughy monstrosities they sell at the store or poser "bagel" shops.

(7)  It helps to create a mini-assembly line to maximize efficiency.  Have 
some clean, folded dish towels next to your kettle, then bowls with your 
toppings next to the towels and your silpat covered baking sheets next to 
the bowls.   Boil, drain, top (put the boiled bagel top down in large bowl 
of seeds; sprinkle on salt if you are doing salt bagels), then place gently 
on the baking sheets.  With half sheet pans, I wouldn't bake more than a 
half dozen at a time.

(8)  Even browning, especially when working toward a very dark golden color 
for maximum crustiness, is best achieved at around 400-425, with baking 
time about 15 to 17.5 minutes.  I can't imagine going much hotter or longer 
without burning.  Also, I have never turned a bagel over and find that the 
bottoms have just the right color even when baked on a baking sheet.

(9)  I have never had a real bagel that (a) was baked on corn meal, (b) was 
not boiled, and (c) came in any exotic flavor such as cinnamon-raisin or 
blueberry.  My conservative (some might argue narrow-minded) view is that 
bagel flavors ought to be limited to plain, salt, sesame and poppy, with an 
allowance perhaps for onion (though that's what bialys are for).

Best regards to my friends Peter Reinhart and Maggie Glezer--and all the 
other pros and serious home bakers on this list.  I hope you will visit us 
here in Portland for Summer Loaf the first Saturday in August.

Michael Zusman
from the mythical
Touch of Grace Bakery