The glory of the BBA bagels

Reinhart claims right in the intro to the recipe that this is a bagel “for the ages”, even while he hedges that for many, no actual, edible bagel comes close to one’s memory of a bagel. I didn’t grow up with bagels, unless you count those frozen Lender’s things, and though I live in the center of the bagel universe (bagelverse?) now, I LOVED these bagels. They were fun and easy to make and turned out amazing.

I began by mixing the ingredients. Note the presence of malt powder there in the background. I picked it up at Kalustyan’s. No specifics on the package to tell me whether or not it is diastatic malt, it went in nonetheless:

Plenty of others blogging the BBA challenge mention how stiff this dough is and that they didn’t want to jeopardize their mixers with it, so I took a page from their book and kneaded by hand. My husband and I switched off and we kneaded for about 25 minutes all in all — we both enjoy kneading and this is a very easy dough to handle. We listened to some klezmer to put us in a bagel mood and provide an up-tempo background to the kneading.
After a brief rest (for the dough, and for us), we divided it into 4 ounce portions, resulting in these cute little buns:

Then let those rest 20 minutes before shaping them into bagels. We used the poking/stretching method:

They don’t actually require a great deal of stretching to produce a nicely shaped bagel. Too much and you have a huge hole which makes spreading cream cheese a bit more challenging (well, if spreading cream cheese on a bagel can ever be considered challenging), too little and you’d just get a bagel-lump. Ours were mostly perfect except for one over-stretched one:

There’s something so satisfying about looking at a sheet of bagels you’ve made!
These need to proof for 20 more minutes and then it’s time for the float test. The bagels will need to float for their pre-bake boiling the next day, so the float test ensures they’ll survive the boil before they go into the fridge for their overnight retarding. I slipped the bagel into a bowl of room temperature water and it floated immediately:

Then into the fridge:

Good night, little bagels!
We were really excited to make them the next morning and instead of lazing around as we normally do on a Saturday morning, practically leaped out of bed. My husband went to the store for baking soda (for the boiling) and cream cheese, I started preheating the oven and boiling the water. Then, we boiled:

They become puffy and glossy and wonderful. This is really fun to do. We varied the boiling time for each batch, but it made no real difference that we could tell. Maybe because we just used regular bread flour and this would be more effective with the high gluten flour. In any case, if you’re boiling, definitely go with the one minute per side but don’t sweat it if it goes toward the two minute mark.
One trick that bears mentioning is to put the bagels in to the water with the flat side up, so that you boil the rounded top first. This way, when you flip them and transfer them back to the sheet for topping, you’ll end up with the risen side back on top and they will be a bit more attractive. You can kind of tell the difference in this photo – the ones on the left have their flat side up. Time to sprinkle on the toppings:

We topped with kosher salt, poppy seeds, or sesame seeds on three batches of three and then did three “everything”. I love onion bagels but we didn’t do any because we were mixing some scallions we had to use up into the cream cheese. Next time, definitely, though.
The short baking and cooling times make these ideal to have fresh for breakfast. We did end up giving ours an additional five minutes beyond Reinhart’s recommendation, though. Here they are, hot out of the oven. Are they gorgeous or what?

Split, showing the crumb:

We literally gorged ourselves on bagels that morning. They were just so good and we wanted to really relish them while they were fresh. The next morning, however, as we savored them at the airport in front of all the poor suckers who ate cruddy airport bagels, they were still really fresh and delicious. I had split and frozen the ones we didn’t eat before we left and they came through that beautifully, too – almost no loss of quality.

We will definitely, definitely make these again. In fact, I can’t wait to make them again. I think I might try the sourdough version this weekend. Brioche is up next and I’m just not sure I’m ready for a rich, buttery bread after four days of eating mostly unhealthy food while we were in San Antonio. But maybe I’m just making excuses to make more bagels.

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