Writings on curious recipes, food I've tasted around the world and the quest for finding the perfect blueberry muffin.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Onion and poppy seed bagels - bringing New York to London


As shocking as this might sound, growing up, I didn't really care about food. (Yes, it hurt just typing that). I didn't really think much about it and as long as I liked the taste of what I was eating, I was happy. That being said, even though I never really craved any certain food or was fixated on something in particular there was one exception - I always wanted bagels.

Admittedly, I probably always wanted them because I could never get them. Having tasted the real thing in NYC, I wanted to have some back at home as well. And, not that I should be allowed to complain about Italian food, but bagels are not exactly Italian - and couldn't be found anywhere near me. And so when we landed in NYC for the summer year after year, the single thing I was most looking forward to was not the view of the skyline as we flew in or walking around in Central Park - no, I was most looking forward to biting into a - slightly toasted and slathered with cream cheese - NYC onion bagel. (Ah, there was a little food lover in me after all!)

Today, things aren't that much different - well besides the fact that rather than biting into any onion bagel, I'd prefer if it was from Murray's or Ess-A-Bagel with cream cheese from Zabar's :-) - but I still get excited about NY bagels and I still wish I could have them at home in Italy London.*

So why, then, rather than complaining and wishing, hadn't I tried to make them at home? Because I had thought it would be a long and complicated affair which would lead to mediocre results and ergo just more complaining and wishing on my part. Therefore I had decided to leave the bagel making to the New Yorkers who know it best.

But then I was flipping through my newest favorite bread book by the God of Bread himself, and came to a bagel recipe which started off - and now I am quoting - with the following lines: 

Let's clear something up right away: New York City isn't the only place in the world to get decent, authentic bagels. The truth is, you can make bagels that are just as good at home, no matter where you live. They're one of the simplest breads to make...

And then I stopped reading, skipped straight to the ingredient list, ran out to get some barley malt and started making them immediately. And that was the smartest thing I did all week.


*Supposedly you can find good bagels in London in several places, but I still haven't had the chance to check them out.

Bagels - New York Style
Taken from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day - as I don't dare mess with his recipes.

Don't be scared of the long recipe ahead - these bagels are ridiculously easy to make. Besides flour, water, salt, yeast and malt all you really need is time - as their greatness lies in a long, slow and cold fermentation. By making the dough the day before and letting it rise overnight in the fridge, the flavors trapped in the flour can really develop and the end result is a truly delicious bagel.

What distinguishes bagels from other breads is barley malt. While it may seem like a strange ingredient, you can actually find it in most supermarkets or health stores. I bought mine at Whole Foods, but I've seen it our local organic food shop as well. Peter Reinhart suggests using honey or rice syrup if you cannot find barley malt, but I'd like to emphasize the malt's importance.

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Dough

21g // 1 tablespoon barley malt syrup or 1 teaspoon of diastatic malt powder
3g // 1 teaspoon instant yeast
10.5g // 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt
255g // 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons of lukewarm water (about 35°C//95°F)
454g // 3 1/2 cups of unbleached bread flour

Poaching liquid

1.8 - 2.8l // 2-3 quarts of water
28.5g // 1 1/2 tablespoons of barley malt syrup or honey (optional)
14g // 1 tablespoon of baking soda
7g // 1 teaspoon of salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarse kosher salt

Toppings

Anything you'd like to put on a bagel - I chose poppy seeds and rehydrated onion - you could also used rehydrated garlic, sesame seeds, coarse salt etc.
I didn't do this, but you can brush an egg white with one tablespoon of water over the bagels before applying the toppings to make sure they stick - in fact my onion bits kinda went all over the place, but I didn't mind.

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The night before

Mix barley malt syrup, yeast, and salt in the lukewarm water. You can mix the dough with a mixer using the dough hook on the lowest speed or by hand, using a large wooden spoon, in both cases for about three minutes, until well blended. The dough should be a stiff, coarse ball and the flour should be fully hydrated - if that's not the case, add a litte more water. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Continue mixing the dough (with wooden spoon or mixer) for another 3 minutes, then transfer it to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for further three minutes. Peter Reinhart says the dough should be stiff yet supple, with a satiny, barely tacky feel. If the dough seems too soft or overly tacky, add a little bit of flour. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for about an hour.

After an hour you can shape the dough. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lightly brush it with vegetable oil. Divide dough into 6 equal parts (at 113g //  4 oz)  and roll into a ball. Then you can either poke a hole into the middle and rotate dough around your fingers until you've got a hole with a 2 inch diameter. Alternatively, you can roll the ball into a rope, about 8 inches long, and place one end of the dough in the palm of your hand and wrap the rope around your hand to complete the circle, going between your thumb and forefinger and then all the way around. The ends should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together to seal. Again, you should have a hole about 2 inches in diameter. (I used this method).

Place the bagels on the prepared tray and lightly brush with oil. Cover the whole tray with pastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight (keeps for up to two days).

On baking day

Remove the bagels about 60 to 90 minutes before baking, and if you want to top them with dried onion or garlic, rehydrate those ingredients. After an hour check to see if your bagels are ready for baking. To do this, fill a small bowl with cold water and place one bagel in it. If it sinks and doesn't float back to the surface, dry it off and return it to the pan and wait another 15 to 20 minutes. When the bagels do float, they are ready to be boiled. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 260°C // 500°F and have your toppings ready.

Poaching and baking the bagels

Fill a pot with the water (making sure that water is at least 4 inches deep) and bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and add malt syrup, baking soda and salt.

Gently lower each bagel into the simmering poaching liquid, adding as many as can fit - I could only fit two at a time. They should all float to the surface within 15 seconds. After one minute, using a slotted spoon, turn each bagel over. Poach for another 30 to 60 seconds, then use the slotted spoon to transfer it back to the tray. Sprinkle with the toppings as soon as they come out of the water.

Once you have poached all bagels, transfer the pan to the oven and lower the heat to 232° // 450°F. Bake for 8 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 8 to 12 minutes, until the bagels are golden brown. (I baked both sides for 8 minutes, and they were quite brown, but I think my oven is a bit crazy).

Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing or serving [and slathering with cream cheese]. (I totally ignored the cooling step and ate them straight away....)

Enjoy!


3 comments:

Schengen said...

Great article and delicious photos! Definetly worth to sit first row in my bookmarks! :)

littlemissdids said...

Wow, thanks!! I'm really happy to hear that - let me know how you liked them!

catering Fort Lauderdale said...

Thank you for your post. I have never tried baking bagels but I love them so I guess I will have a try. The poppy seed variation really looks different, so I guess I will have to go for the onion style first. Thank you again for sharing this wonderful post.

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