So who was excited about bagels? They were a big hit at my house, despite three bagel heresies in the recipe. Shortening? Yikes! Use whatever flour you have on hand? No Way! A soft sticky dough? What!?! Is "heresy" a little strong? Yes, yes it is. But let me explain.
I taught myself to bake using Nancy Silverton's book Breads from the La Brea Bakery. Ms. Silverton uses mostly sourdough starter to make her breads. Although the tone is friendly and the recipes well written, it's a serious book. Ms. Silverton really wants you to make great bread; and if that means a dough that takes three days to make/bake, then suck it up and get to work.
After mastering the basic bread recipes (country white, ciabatta, focaccia, baguettes, etc.), I moved on to fun stuff: dog biscuits (yes, really!), pretzels and bagels. Nancy describes learning everything she knows about bagels from an even more exacting teacher. Izzy Cohen, a 78-year old baker, says, "a lot of nothing passes for bagels. They're round. They have a hole." Izzy insists on several things when it comes to bagels: high gluten flour (no high gluten flour and Izzy won't bake), 20 seconds of boiling time (not 2 minutes!), no cheats for flavor (they need time for fermentation so the taste will come out in the chew.)
Now, I'm not as picky as Izzy, but there's no denying that the bagels from that book are the best I've ever made. And I make them fairly often, about every other month. They freeze well and we all love them. I've tried Peter Reinhart's recipe and they're good, but Izzy's/Nancy's are better. I wasn't sure about these, (especially the shortening) but I was willing to give them a try.
You know what? This recipe made good bagels. First, let's look at the heresies: The shortening didn't seem to make much of a difference in the final dough. (I guess it's there to preserve freshness?) Unlike some TWDers, I haven't banished Crisco from my house. It still works wonders in pie dough, though I don't use it for much else.
I made high gluten flour by adding vital wheat gluten powder to bread flour (1 teaspoon wheat gluten to 1 cup flour). The recipe says that high gluten flour will make the best bagels, but that you should try it anyway. I can see where she's coming from, I wouldn't want to exclude anybody. But frankly, bagels are a lot of work and there are decent ones to be found in most places (despite Izzy's grousing). If you're going to bother making bagels, the results should be worth the effort.
Remember that soft sticky dough that I was worried about? Mine didn't turn out that way and I didn't even add all of the flour. Which is just as well. Most bagel doughs I've made are pretty firm, since the crumb of a bagel is supposed to be even (not full of irregular holes). This dough was pretty stiff. Did anyone try to knead this by hand? My arms weren't up to the workout. I used my stand mixer.
I do have a few quibbles with this recipe though.
- Why 10 bagels? It's a pain to divide half the dough into 5 even pieces. Besides, bagels have a million calories, even without cream cheese. Smaller is better. I made a dozen.
- Go easy on the flour! It's better to shape bagels with no extra flour on the table. The dough is dry enough without adding extra flour.
- Why did we have to strain the egg wash? And what was with the fussy double glazing technique with the egg wash? Why did we have to do it twice? And then worry about it dripping onto the pan. (BTW, line your pan with parchment paper. You'll thank me later.)
- Why would you cut, shape, boil, glaze and top half the bagels, and then do the other half while the first half bakes? That is crazy. I did the whole batch, put them on two cookie sheets and rotated them in the oven. They all turned out fine.
Actually, better than fine. They turned out pretty and shiny and tasty. So maybe challenging bagel doctrine is okay. I wouldn't want to mess with Izzy, though. What did you guys think of these bagels?