Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Doughnut With Rigor Mortis

The first printed mention of bagels...is to be found in the Community Regulations of Kracow, Poland, for the year 1610 which stated that bagels would be given as a gift to any woman in childbirth - The Joys of Yiddish by Leo Rosten
We were invited to an absolutely delightful brunch last Sunday. The group was made up, in large IMG_1708part, people who really care about food. Some fellow members of the Slow Food Board and Professional Cooks among them. The offerings included home cured meats, fresh bi-valves, yeast waffles and other tasty goods. A carefully concocted variety of “Marys” and some ales to wash things down.

By request, I brought bagels. Despite being usually reserved for our Sunday brunch, small amounts have been doled out over time – enough to gain a bit of a reputation for being yummy.

Bagel 001How did this batch fare? People were taking them home. There were two of the best cooks in town there. James offered to trade some of his next batch of smoked salmon for some – Michael, we can talk . . .

We make them regularly, and have for years. It used to be more of family affair. these days I tend to make them alone. For years, like my quest for rye bread, I searched cookbooks - especially baking books – to no avail. Like rye bread my answers came from anPictures 053 unexpected source (in the case of rye bread, food writer Elissa Altman pointed me to Deborah Madison’s recipe in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone).

Inasmuch as a recipe is anyone’s, this is Russ Parsons’ – the Food Editor at the LA Times and one of my favorite food writers. I feel to share his recipe because:

A: I am crediting him and linking to the original.

B: I have modified the recipe enough to adapt it, and

C: It’s his birthday.

The changes I have made are to increase the amount of baking soda in the water bath – it improves the crust I think. I add an egg wash both for appearance and because it makes the toppings stick better. I also add an extra day to the process. The first time was an accident, but I think they come out even better with the two day ferment.

And so without further ado, I give you

Bagels a la Russ
Pictures 051
3 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (1 pound)
3 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 tbls barley malt syrup, (or honey)
1 cup plus 2 tbls water
3 tsp baking soda
1 egg for egg wash
Toppings, as desired

1 In the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor or by hand, mix the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, the yeast, barley malt syrup and 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water until the ingredients form a stiff, coarse ball of dough (about 3 minutes if mixing by hand or in a mixer; or 1 minute in a food processor). If necessary, add a little more water. Let the dough rest 5 minutes.
2 Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until the dough feels stiff yet supple, with a satiny, slightly tacky feel, 2 to 3 minutes. If the dough seems too soft or too tacky, sprinkle over just enough flour as needed.
3 Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
4 When ready to shape the bagels, line a baking sheet with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. I spray the mat.
5 Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a loose, round ball by rolling it on a clean, dry work surface with a cupped hand; do not use any flour on the surface. If the dough slides around and won''t ball up, wipe the work surface with a damp paper towel and try again -- the slight amount of moisture will provide enough "bite" for the dough to form a ball. When each piece has been formed into a ball, you are ready to shape the bagels.
6 Using your hands and a fair amount of pressure, roll each dough ball into a "rope" 8 to 10 inches long. (Moisten the work surface with a damp paper towel, if necessary, to get the necessary bite or friction). Slightly taper the rope at the ends so that they are thinner than the middle. Place one end of the dough between your thumb and forefinger and wrap it around your hand until the ends overlap in your palm; they should overlap by about 2 inches. Squeeze the overlapping ends together and then press the joined ends into the work surface, rolling them back and forth a few times until they are completely sealed.
7 Remove the dough from your hand and squeeze as necessary to even out the thickness so that there is a 2-inch hole in the center. Place the bagel on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the other pieces. Lightly wipe the bagels with oil, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight. (I spray the wrap rather than oiling the bagels)
8 Remove the bagels from the refrigerator 90 minutes before you plan to bake them. Fill a large stockpot with 3 quarts of water (be sure the water is at least 4 inches deep), cover with a lid, and slowly bring the water to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the remaining teaspoon of salt and 3 teaspoons of baking soda, reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.
9 Thirty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 500 degrees.
10 Test the bagels by placing one in a bowl of cold water. If it sinks and doesn''t float to the surface, return it to the sheet, wait 15 minutes and then test it again. When one bagel passes the float test, they are ready for the pot.
11 Gently lift each bagel and drop it into the simmering water. Add as many as will comfortably fit in the pot. After 1 minute, use a slotted spoon to flip each bagel over. Poach for an extra 30 seconds. Using the slotted spoon, remove each bagel and return it to the lined baking sheet. Continue until all the bagels have been poached. Brush with egg wash and generously sprinkle each bagel with a topping, except for cinnamon sugar (see note below).
12 Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Bake for 8 minutes and then rotate the sheet (if using two sheets, also switch their positions). Check the underside of the bagels. If they are getting too dark, place another sheet under the baking sheet (i.e., double-pan it). Bake until the bagels are golden brown, an additional 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the bagels to a rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Servings: 8
Yield: 8 Bagels
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (3.6 ounces).
Percent daily values based on the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for a 2000 calorie diet.
Nutrition information calculated from recipe ingredients.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 234.88
Calories From Fat (6%) 13.92
% Daily Value
Total Fat 1.62g 2%
Saturated Fat 0.35g 2%
Cholesterol 23.25mg 8%
Sodium 1356.09mg 57%
Potassium 81.02mg 2%
Total Carbohydrates 45.54g 15%
Fiber 1.54g 6%
Sugar 2.08g
Protein 8.28g 17%
Recipe Type: Bake, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Sandwiches
Original notes:
Barley malt, also known as barley malt syrup, is generally available at health food stores including Erewhon Natural Foods in Los Angeles and Granny's Pantry in Pasadena, as well as at most Whole Foods Market stores. Instant yeast is generally available at cooking and baking supply stores. Despite the short work time, this recipe takes two days to make because of the rising time. If you make more than 6 bagels, you may need to prepare 2 baking sheets. Toppings can include poppy or sesame seeds, coarse salt, dehydrated onion or garlic bits that have been soaked, and cinnamon sugar.
Note: If using cinnamon sugar (1 part cinnamon to 5 parts granulated sugar), immediately brush the top of each hot bagel with melted butter and then generously sprinkle with the mixture so that it is coated. It will form a nice cinnamon crust as it cools.

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