Wednesday, June 27, 2007

No Longer Top-Secret Bagel Challenge

Well it's finally here...the big day to reveal my first Daring Bakers Challenge and boy was it a doosey!! The challenge, which was presented to us by Jenny and Freya was to bake Real Honest Jewish Purist's Bagels. I must admit when I first saw the challenge I was really excited, because I had always wanted to make bagels but too afraid to try, but now I had my chance, and I wanted to prove to everyone that making bagels is not scary---which isn't totally true (I'll explain later).

So with my extremely high adrenaline, and anticipation to begin my first Daring Bakers Challenge, I began to go to work on my bagels. The first part of the bagel making process is to proof your yeast, and I must admit I've never been a fan, or very successful with yeast. So this first step had my biting my finger nails. But when I returned to my little yeast bowl and saw the bubbles forming I started jumping with joy (literally).

The next step was my favorite part because it was so messy and gooey...I loved it! I'm talking about hand-mixing in my flour to the yeast. Just to feel the warm yeast squirm in between your fingers while being gently caressed into a love affair with the added flour was so cool! Just make sure to use one hand for mixing and the other for dumping in the flour otherwise you'll have two gooey, mookey hands (not a good thing). Once you have all the flour, and I do mean ALL OF THE FLOUR (as many of us Daring Bakers came to find out), you need to let the dough rise. This part totally blew my mind because the dough rose in no time at all (Thanks to the 4 TBSP of yeast).

Ok, so once the whole rising process is complete it's time to make the bagels. I chose the snake method, only because I had seen it done on T.V. and wanted to try to make bagels the "professional" way. Up until this part of the challenge everything was going great, I couldn't believe I was actually making bagels! And the dough that I was "snaking" even looked like bagels. I was on my way to bagel success until I started the boiling process and everything went downhill from there. First of all, my bagels were floaters not sinkers, and I began to notice that after I boiled them the bagels had decreased in volume, they became really flat. Trying not to get flustered I continued the boiling process which just got messier and messier. Pieces of my bagels started to boil off of the actual bagel, there was dough was just not a pretty site.

So I took all of my boiled bagels and placed them on the cookie sheet and into the oven they went. When the timer went of and I opened the oven door my heart sank! What I found were flat bagels that were very had somehow gotten a better tan than I had. After letting them cool, I took a bite of one, and it didn't taste bad, but it did not have to texture of a bagel. My "bagels" were very dense and gummy and not something I would want to make again. My bagels days are over. And with this being my first Daring Bakers Challenge I'm wondering what I got my self into and am a little afraid for the next challenge. But should you wish to try the Daring Bakers Bagel Experience here's the recipe. Hope you have better results than I did!

6-8 cups bread (high-gluten) flour
4 tablespoons dry baking yeast
6 tablespoons granulated white sugar or light honey (clover honey is good)
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups hot water
a bit of vegetable oil
1 gallon water
3-5 tablespoons malt syrup or sugar
a few handfuls of cornmeal

large mixing bowl
wire whisk
measuring cups and spoons
wooden mixing spoon
butter knife or baker's dough blade
clean, dry surface for kneading
3 clean, dry kitchen towels
warm, but not hot, place to set dough to rise
large stockpot
slotted spoon
2 baking sheets

How You Do It:
Step 1- Proof Yeast: Pour three cups of hot water into the mixing bowl. The water should be hot, but not so hot that you can't bear to put your fingers in it for several seconds at a time. Add the sugar or honey and stir it with your fingers (a good way to make sure the water is not too hot) or with a wire whisk to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water, and stir to dissolve.
Wait about ten minutes for the yeast to begin to revive and grow. Skipping this step could result in your trying to make bagels with dead yeast, which results in bagels so hard and potentially dangerous that they are banned under the terms of the Geneva Convention. You will know that the yeast is okay if it begins to foam and exude a sweetish, slightly beery smell.

Step 2- Make Dough: At this point, add about three cups of flour as well as the 2 tsp of salt to the water and yeast and begin mixing it in. Some people subscribe to the theory that it is easier to tell what's going on with the dough if you use your hands rather than a spoon to mix things into the dough, but others prefer the less physically direct spoon. As an advocate of the bare-knuckles school of baking, I proffer the following advice: clip your fingernails, take off your rings and wristwatch, and wash your hands thoroughly to the elbows, like a surgeon. Then you may dive into the dough with impunity. I generally use my right hand to mix, so that my left is free to add flour and other ingredients and to hold the bowl steady. Left-handed people might find that the reverse works better for them. Having one hand clean and free to perform various tasks works best.
When you have incorporated the first three cups of lour, the dough should begin to become thick-ish. Add more flour, a half-cup or so at a time, and mix each addition thoroughly before adding more flour. As the dough gets thicker, add less and less flour at a time.

Step 3- Knead Dough: Soon you will begin to knead it by hand (if you're using your hands to mix the dough in the first place, this segue is hardly noticeable). If you have a big enough and shallow enough bowl, use it as the kneading bowl, otherwise use that clean, dry, flat counter top or tabletop mentioned in the "Equipment" list above. Sprinkle your work surface or bowl with a handful of flour, put your dough on top, and start kneading. Add bits of flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking (to your hands, to the bowl or counter top, etc....). Soon you should have a nice stiff dough. It will be quite elastic, but heavy and stiffer than a normal bread dough. Do not make it too dry, however... it should still give easily and stretch easily without tearing.

Step 4- Let Dough Rise: Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with one of your clean kitchen towels, dampened somewhat by getting it wet and then wringing it out thoroughly. If you swish the dough around in the bowl, you can get the whole ball of dough covered with a very thin film of oil, which will keep it from drying out.
Place the bowl with the dough in it in a dry, warm (but not hot) place, free from drafts. Allow it to rise until doubled in volume. Some people try to accelerate rising by putting the dough in the oven, where the pilot lights keep the temperature slightly elevated. If it's cold in your kitchen, you can try this, but remember to leave the oven door open or it may become too hot and begin to kill the yeast and cook the dough. An ambient temperature of about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Centigrades) is ideal for rising dough.

Step 5- Prepare Water for Bagels: While the dough is rising, fill your stockpot with about a gallon of water and set it on the fire to boil. When it reaches a boil, add the malt syrup or sugar and reduce the heat so that the water just barely simmers; the surface of the water should hardly move.

Step 6- Form Bagels: Once the dough has risen, turn it onto your work surface, punch it down, and divide immediately into as many hunks as you want to make bagels. For this recipe, you will probably end up with about 15 bagels, so you will divide the dough into 15 roughly even-sized hunks. Begin forming the bagels. There are two schools of thought on this. One method of bagel formation involves shaping the dough into a rough sphere, then poking a hole through the middle with a finger and then pulling at the dough around the hole to make the bagel. This is the hole-centric method. The dough-centric method involves making a long cylindrical "snake" of dough and wrapping it around your hand into a loop and mashing the ends together. Whatever you like to do is fine. DO NOT, however, give in to the temptation of using a doughnut or cookie cutter to shape your bagels. This will push them out of the realm of Jewish Bagel Authenticity and give them a distinctly Protestant air. The bagels will not be perfectly shaped. They will not be symmetrical. This is normal. This is okay. Enjoy the diversity. Just like snowflakes, no two genuine bagels are exactly alike.

Step 7- Pre-heat Oven: Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 8- Half Proof and Boil Bagels: Once the bagels are formed, let them sit for about 10 minutes. They will begin to rise slightly. Ideally, they will rise by about one-fourth volume... a technique called "half-proofing" the dough. At the end of the half-proofing, drop the bagels into the simmering water one by one. You don't want to crowd them, and so there should only be two or three bagels simmering at any given time. The bagels should sink first, then gracefully float to the top of the simmering water. If they float, it's not a big deal, but it does mean that you'll have a somewhat more bready (and less bagely) texture. Let the bagel simmer for about three minutes, then turn them over with a skimmer or a slotted spoon. Simmer another three minutes, and then lift the bagels out of the water and set them on a clean kitchen towel that has been spread on the counter top for this purpose. The bagels should be pretty and shiny, thanks to the malt syrup or sugar in the boiling water.

Step 9- Bake Bagels: Once all the bagels have been boiled, prepare your baking sheets by sprinkling them with cornmeal. Then arrange the bagels on the prepared baking sheets and put them in the oven. Let them bake for about 25 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over and put them back in the oven to finish baking for about ten minutes more. This will help to prevent flat-bottomed bagels.
Remove from the oven and cool on wire racks, or on a dry clean towels if you have no racks. Do not attempt to cut them until they are cool... hot bagels slice abominably and you'll end up with a wadded mass of bagel pulp. Don't do it.
How To Customize Outside of Bagels: After boiling but before baking, brush the bagels with a wash made of 1 egg white and 3 tablespoons ice water beaten together. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice: poppy, sesame, or caraway seeds, toasted onion or raw garlic bits, salt or whatever you like. Just remember that bagels are essentially a savory baked good, not a sweet one, and so things like fruit and sweet spices are really rather out of place.


Laura said...

Don't get discouraged bagels are supposed to be chewy right?! Roll on the next challenge!

breadchick said...

Aw Steph, I"m sorry your first DB challenge didn't quite work out but don't get discouraged or give up on yeast (or bagels!). I'm glad you completed the challenge. Great effort!

Steph said...

Thanks girls!! That gives me hope :0)

Quellia said...

Oh no! Please don't give up on us because of my challenge!
I'm glad you enjoyed at least some of it! And that you were able to complete the challenge!

Meeta said...

Don't give up hope Steph! Kudos to you for trying!

Cheryl said...

I actually don't think they look bad at all.

But I would encourage you to try it again. I thought they were actually fun to make.

Jerry said...

Aw, I as well had problems with my bagels! We'll do better next month!

Elle said...

You were successful with the challenge, even if the results were not what you had hoped for, because you did follow the recipe and finished. Way to GO!
These were certainly bagels with personality - many with uneven surfaces, some that fell a bit flat, some a bit too light - but do give next month a try.
Glad you ar part of the Daring Bakers.

Steph said...

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments, I feel rejuvinated and ready for the next challenge...JUST PLEASE DON"T MAKE IT BAGELS ;) He, he

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Steph this is what Daring is all about. Take heart there are many ways up that mountain the daring bakers climb!
You were daring to try and you got some bagels with different personalities!!
Now let's hear it for the July challenge ... drum roll ... guess we'll have to wait a bit.

Helen said...

Bread is like a woman: difficult to tame (yeah!) so don't be discouraged. Everytime, it is a different story when yeast is involved.

Sara said...

That's too bad they didn't taste god, they look great. The kneading was my favorite part too.

Peabody said...

Hang in there! You gave an excellent effort.

Mary said...

Hi Steph, Being a DB is about good and sometimes not so good results. Either way, we always learn something. Welcome and I hope next month's challenge will be better for you. :)

Baking Soda said...

Congrats on completing your first challenge, you did it! It's all about learning and stepping out of your comfort zone. So, thumbs up and ready for the next!

Kelly-Jane said...

Sorry to hear they didn't turn out as you'd hoped, but it was fun wasn't it? Well done on giving your first challenge a go :)

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Please don't be discouraged! You didn't fail. You actually made them and that's the main thing. You did it from start to finish and didn't give up half way through. It was my first DB challenge too and though my bagels turned out okay I probably wont make them again. You'll do great with the next challenge - really you will!

creampuff said...

Congratulations on completing your first DB challenge! These things don't always work out the way we want them to but you did a great job in perserving!

Anonymous said...

Good job Steph! I don't think they look too bad at all. =] I am not a fan of yeast either; working with it makes me extremely nervous.


Lis said...

Congrats on your first challenge, Steph =)

I'm sorry it didn't work out, but I'm going to say the same as the rest of the gals.. don't let it discourage you, sometimes the bad results end up being the most effective in teaching us what to do next time. =)

I think you did a most excellent job in getting through them!


Glenna said...

Nicely done! You made it through and they look great!

prof said...

vous pouvez poster vos infos sur