Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Parisian bagels

I wish I could remember how I came across this recipe. I wasn't looking for bagel recipes; I can't imagine I'd settle on a Parisian one if I was. It comes from a radio show I've never heard of, adapted from cookbook I've never heard of, from a recipe by someone I've never heard of. Perhaps some blog I have heard of pointed to one of those three?

Anyway, if you're interested in any of those here's a link. And here's the recipe. It looks complicated, but it was actually pretty simple and quick as bread recipes go. The cook's notes are from the original. Everything went so smoothly, I don't think I have any notes myself.


Now, how elegant is this?! A French bagel! Actually, in Paris there is a huge Jewish community (more than half of all of France’s 500,000+ Jews live in Paris) and the MOST famous bagel restaurant-deli is that of Jo Goldenberg at 7 rue de Rosiers. It’s a Paris institution less than a mile from the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame.

Our listener Caryn started all of this (be sure to check out her picture – and her bagels’ picture - on the “Look at Us” page – menu at left) and the subject proved so interesting that the recipe is our feature this week. It turns out to be lots of fun to make bagels – and not difficult at all.

To make things even easier, the making-a-rope technique for shaping bagels, used by professional bakers, is NOT the one we’re using here. It’s very difficult to make that rope of dough perfectly even in thickness, as it wraps around the baker’s open hand, being rolled back and forth expertly. For the home baker, this recipe simply calls for making a ball of dough, then pushing a hole through the center – you’ll see, below. There are also some Cook’s Notes, and a few suggestions for variations (this recipe is for plain water bagels) in case you’d like to make onion or sesame or poppy seed or other flavors….variations follow the recipe…more of the "fine points" will be discussed on the show.


3 1/2 cups (approximately), bread flour [or substitute all-purpose flour]
2 packages, dry yeast
3 tablespoons, sugar
1 tablespoon, salt
1 1/2 cups, hot water (120-130 degrees)
3 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons, barley malt syrup [or substitute sugar in the same amount]
1 egg white – beaten with 1 teaspoon, water
topping of choice, if any (see Variations, below)
cornmeal for sprinkling on the baking sheet

Make the dough: In a mixing bowl (or the bowl of an electric mixer) measure 3 cups of the flour and stir in all the remaining dry ingredients. Pour in the hot water, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon (or with the flat paddle attachment of the electric mixer at low speed) and beat for about 2 minutes.

Add the remaining half-cup of flour, a little at a time, stirring by hand. When the batter becomes thick and heavy, attach the mixer’s dough hook (if using) or lift the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface for kneading by hand.

Knead the dough: Knead the dough at medium low speed on the mixer – or by hand (using a push, turn and fold motion, energetically) for about 10 minutes – or until the dough is firm and solid when pinched with the fingers. Add flour as needed if the dough is sticky in your hands, or sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl (if using electric mixer).

First Rising: When dough is kneaded enough, place it in an oiled mixing bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature until it has doubled in volume – about 1 hour.

Prepare water bath: Near the end of this rising time, bring the 3 quarts of water to the boil in a large saucepan. Add the malt syrup or sugar; then, reduce the heat and leave the water just barely moving – at a slow simmer.

Shape the bagels: When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and punch it down with extended fingers to remove excess gas.

Divide the dough into 10 pieces (each will weigh about 3-4 ounces). [I halved the recipe and made my bagels on the small side so I ended up with six.] Shape each piece into a ball. Allow the balls to stand and relax for a few minutes – then flatten each one with the palm of your hand.

With your thumb, press deep into the center of the bagel and tear the depression open with your fingers. Pull the hole open, pull it down over a finger and smooth the rough edges. It should look like a bagel! Form all of the bagels and place them on your work surface.

Second Rising: Cover the shaped bagels with wax paper or parchment paper. Leave them at room temperature just until the dough has risen slightly – about 10 minutes (this is called a “half proof”). [Cook’s Note: If the bagels are allowed to rise too much during this “second rise” – they will not sink when put in the simmering water; but, if that should happen, just pretend that they DID sink – and cook them for the same 1 minute as described below. The difference will be unnoticeable to most anyone.]

Prepare the baking sheet: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. [Cook’s Note: If using a convection oven, reduce the heat by 50 degrees.] Grease a baking sheet with shortening (or use a non-stick baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with “Silpat” or similar material) and sprinkle the baking sheet with cornmeal.

Water-bathing the bagels: Into the gently simmering water prepared earlier, slip one bagel at a time (use a large skimmer, and gently lower them into the water). Simmer only 2 or 3 bagels at a time – do not crowd the pan. The bagels will sink and then rise again after a few seconds. Simmer gently for one minute, turning each bagel over once during that time. Lift each bagel out of the water with the skimmer, drain briefly on a towel, then place each bagel on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all bagels are simmered, drained and on the baking sheet. [Cook’s Note: Thanks to the malt syrup or the sugar that was added to the simmering water, the bagels will be shiny as they come from the water.]

Baking the bagels: If toppings are desired, (see “Variations” below) now is the time to add them, by sprinkling the desired topping over the bagels. Brush each bagel lightly with the egg-white-water mixture first, then sprinkle the topping if desired – or leave unadorned, for water bagels.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. When the bagel tops are a light brown, turn them over to complete baking. This turning-over step will keep the bagels in a rounded shape, instead of their being flat on the bottom. When brown and shiny, remove the finished bagels from the oven.
Place the bagels on a metal rack to cool.

Toppings may include: coarse salt, shredded onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway seeds, or other flavors of your choice. Sprinkle toppings over before baking bagels, as described above. [I made sesame, salt, onion and everything bagels. All out of poppy seeds.]

Another tasty treat: slice each bagel crosswise into 4 thin rounds. Return the rounds to the oven and bake the rounds until dry throughout, and just beginning to brown – about 20 minutes. Remove the rounds from the oven, immediately butter them and salt lightly – then return to the oven for about 5 minutes until the butter is absorbed by the rounds. Serve hot or at room temperature as a snack.

Recipe adapted from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads (Simon and Schuster)"

And here they are:

The outsides looks great, but inside, that's not quite what the inside of a bagel should look like. After taking a bite, the crust has just the right crunch then chew you want in a bagel. My jaw hurts which means either I did this right (This is Jewish food: all joy brings pain.) or I should stop putting off my dental check-up. On the other hand, the inside just squishes to nothing. That part needs work. The flavors are good though, even through the onion and sesame, cream cheese and tomato (no lox today; making the bagels was a spur of the moment decision and you have to travel to find good lox.) you can taste the distinctive warm, hearty and slightly sweet bagel flavor. Not bad at all for a first try.

I do want to improve the insides, though, so a little more research is in order. ... Done. Here's what I've learned:
* First, my dough wasn't stiff enough. A good bagel dough should be very hard to work. That should give a denser crumb in the final product.
* Second, my bagels were puffy because the simplified forming method gets out fewer air bubbles than the traditional method of rolling them out into a rope and then joining the ends.
* Third, the recipe I used had a particularly short poaching time in the sugar water. An extra minute or two would cook the outer surface more, increasing its chewiness and keep it tight so the dough couldn't rise in the oven, further reducing its puffiness.
* Fourth, a more traditional recipe uses malt syrup or powder instead of sugar, both in the dough and in the water. I'm not entirely clear how that effects the result, but the bagels I had in New York certainly used it so it couldn't hurt if I'm trying to match them.
* Fifth, a slightly higher baking temperature will get them crunchier, and
* Sixth, mixing some of the toppings into the dough isn't a bad idea.

I wonder how much of the differences are Paris vs. New York and how much from over-simplification for the home cook (something you really need to look out for if don't know where your recipes are coming from). They all seem to be easy fixes for next time, although I may have to go to a brewing supply store for the malt. Still, even without those refinements, these bagels are easily the best I've had in Miami. Of course, fresh from the oven counts for a lot. The real test will be how they freeze, defrost and toast. [And the result: eh. Not bad; could be better.]


Russell Hews Everett said...

Hmmm. Sadly there are no homebrew shops in Miami, and the only homebrew shop in South Florida is http://www.bxbeerdepot.com/ in Lake Worth. I usually order my ingredients in from Hearts Homebrew in Orlando or Northernbrewer.com

You might be able to find barley syrup in health food stores, it's sold as a natural sweetener. Otherwise malt extract syrup for brewing will not really be practical for your 1 1/2 T needs. 3lbs is usually the smallest size, and it will go south in a couple weeks once you open it. You could try using dry malt extract (DME) which has a much longer shelf life. I keep it in the freezer for making yeast starters.

billjac said...

I knew Miami was lame, but no homebrew shops? That's even worse than I thought. At least that should stem my nascent urge to attempt homebrewing again. That was not likely to lead anywhere good.

I'll look in healthfood stores. Thanks for the tip!

kat said...

I actually found barley syrup in the local high end grocery store here. It was in the baking section next to the agave nectar.

billjac said...

Thanks, I'll take a look next time I'm in Whole Foods. The other high-end places near me have lousy baking sections.

LaDivaCucina said...

When I lived in Sydney, many bakeries would pass off circular rolls as bagels. They had missed the important step of boiling them and were merely round doughnut shaped roll that had been baked. If they ain't boiled, they ain't no bagel! And that's what I told them. I'll give these a shot, I love salt bagels.

billjac said...

Reminds me of the "bagels" in San Diego. Pathetic, fluffy things is ludicrous flavors. There are no such things as cinnamon raisin or asiago bagels and they certainly shouldn't be served with strawberry or sun-dried tomato cream cheese (respectively or otherwise). Honestly, both those combinations are pretty tasty, but they're still bagel sacrilege.

LaDivaCucina said...

Agreed. Like blueberry. How goy can you go?!