Friday, February 05, 2010

Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge: My Bagels, My Babies

I am suffering from a serious case of baker's pride. I can't believe I made bagels. And I can't believe how good they were.

I like my bagels chewy. But here in San Francisco, most bagels are pillowy, steamed, and as big as your head. So I was excited about Peter Reinhart's bagel recipe in the BBA, which he promised would be chewy and nothing less than a bagel "for the ages."

As I scanned the recipe, I was excited but a bit daunted. So many steps! Dividing! Shaping! Boiling! This was surely more complicated than a simple loaf of bread. I was also squeamish about working with "the stiffest dough in the bread kingdom". After my difficulties kneading the Anadama Bread, I figured I would have to work my arms off to get all of the bagel ingredients properly incorporated.

Up until now, I have been mostly mixing and kneading by hand, convinced that the best way to learn about bread dough is to handle it. But in order to save my arms, I figured it was time to bring my beloved KitchenAid mixer out for a spin. This appliance is beautiful to behold. It is all curves and shine, and lacquered in a syrupy coating of Martha Stewart mint green. I practically swoon every time I pull it out of the cabinet. Is this what car lovers feel like when they take their baby out for a spin?

Alas, the bagel dough was too much for my KitchenAid to handle. The ball of dough just kept whipping around the bowl, stubbornly refusing to pick up the extra flour that had pooled beneath it. So sadly, I tucked her away for another day.

I then threw the dough down on the counter and went to work. It took a lot of patience to get all of the flour evenly distributed, but it wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated. At this stage of my bread-baking career, I think that a stiff dough is actually easier to handle than a sticky dough, like the one for pizza. I shudder to remember how that turned out.

As I neared the shaping stage, my entire kitchen seemed to explode with people. My son and his friend came racing through. My daughter went toddling by. Our babysitter commandeered the stove to cook lunch. And two exterminators lay prone on the kitchen floor, trying to determine how one friendly little mouse had found its way into our house.

What was that about reducing distractions when you're baking?

Miraculously, I managed to shape the dough into bagel-like objects and stash them safely in the fridge for the night. I was already becoming infected with baker's pride. I got giddy every time I opened the fridge and caught a glimpse of my bagels.

One of the brilliant things about this recipe is that although it's a two day process, most of the hard work comes on day one. That means you can actually wake up at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning and make fresh baked bagels for brunch.

Which is exactly what I did. I practically popped out of bed at 7am, threw on a pot of water to boil, and cranked the oven up to 500 degrees. The bagels were done by the time Mickey Mouse Clubhouse was over.

Have I mentioned how good these bagels were? We ate them right out of the oven with nothing smeared on them. The crust was golden and crackly, and it gave way to a nice chewy interior. And the combination of sesame seeds and salt gave just the right boost of nutty flavor.

In the past, I have contemplated ordering bagels from H&H in New York. Now I don't have to. I can't wait to make these again. Who wants to come over for brunch?

1 comment:

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I do! I want to come for brunch.
Great job on the bagels!