Friday, June 5, 2009

New York bagels (or some approximation)

Back in my Parisian bagels post I listed a handful of alterations to the recipe that would bring it closer to the New York version. Not that the Parisian version was at all bad, it just wasn't New York and that's what I want to try to make. Today I marked up the recipe with the modifications and gave it a try.

1 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
[Using whole wheat wasn't actually one of the modifications, but I bought some white whole wheat and I've been wanting to try it out. It's supposed to have the physical properties of whole wheat without the flavor. Now that I write it out, it doesn't sound like such a great thing.]
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
3 Tablespoons malt syrup
[I found malt syrup at Whole Foods. It's not particularly sweet so I was generous with it and cut back on the water to compensate.]
1 Tablespoon salt
1 cups hot water

water for boiling
1 1/2 Tablespoons malt syrup

various toppings

I preheated the oven to 425 degrees--a little hotter than last time--hoping to get the bagels a little crispier.

I mixed the dry ingredients and then carefully added the wet just until the dough came together to make sure the dough stayed stiff. That made the 10 minutes of kneading a bit of a chore, but since I used the whole wheat, it needed the full time to get the gluten worked up.

Once it formed a tight ball, I put it in an oiled bowl, covered it with plastic wrap and let it rise. Some recipes only give it twenty minutes for this step, but since it's for flavor production I figured I should give it a full hour.

I punched down the dough and cut it up into pieces for the individual bagels. I decided to make eight 2-ounce mini-bagels this time so I can have a whole one for a snack. I tried rolling out a rope and making a loop to form them, but the dough isn't at all sticky and I was a bit over-generous in the oiling earlier so I have troubles there. Instead I gave each piece of dough a good knead to work out bubbles, let them rest a couple minutes, and then flattened them, poked a hole in the middle and formed them into a bagely shape. I think that worked well enough in deflating them, but they really don't want to be reshaped at this point they're not nice well-formed loops.

Once they were shaped, I boiled them in the malt-water for a full three minutes with a flip in the middle.

When I took them out of the water I skipped the egg wash and just dunked them into a bowl of mixed sesame seeds, poppy seeds, kosher salt and diced onions. It made kind of an ugly mess so I changed to sprinkling the mix over the top for the later ones.

They sat for ten minutes and then into a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. I think I took them out at 22.

The toppings didn't work quite the way I had hoped. There's too much and since the onions aren't on top, they didn't brown. Well, I can always scrape off the excess.

The outside of the bagels have the appropriate chew, but they aren't crisp. I think that's because the excess toppings insulated it and because I skipped the egg wash, but another few minutes in the oven wouldn't have hurt.

The texture inside is dense, but soft. They seem more like soft pretzels than bagels. (Using too much salt in the toppings only increases the resemblance.)

The recipe for soft pretzels is almost exactly the same as for bagels. I wonder what the key difference is. Maybe the texture inside is like that because my misshapen bagels had lots of vents. A proper bagel's interior should be sealed inside a thick skin created by the boiling. But so should a proper pretzel. The fact that I made these bagels so small might have had some effect since pretzels are almost always thinner than bagels. This is going to require some more experimentation to find out. Any-which-way, it still beats light and fluffy.

The whole wheat must have had some effect too, although there's nothing in the texture and only the slightest hint in the flavor you can point to as recognizably whole wheat. There is a hint of the malt there, too. Malt also shows up in a lot of soft pretzel recipes and I think it struck me as part of the pretzely flavor. Maybe I've had more properly made pretzels than bagels in my life so that's where my memory of malt goes.

Overall, these aren't bad beyond the trouble with the toppings. There's some good texture on the outside at least and the flavor is about right, but they aren't quite what I was aiming at either. I think the first batch turned out better overall. I'll have to change some elements back to see if I can bring out the best of both versions.

After that, though, I see some bagel recipes that use a sponge for extra flavor. It's not clear, but that may be the Montreal style which I've been curious about. That's going on the to-make list.


kat said...

The final two certainly look like "real" bagels to me. I find without an egg wash my toppings don't stick to my baked goods at all

billjac said...

Well, remember that they're getting the toppings right out of the water bath so the dough is wet and sticky.

As for the reality of the bagels, it's the inside texture that's bugging me, but it's been so long since I've had a proper bagel that I'm not sure quite what I'm aiming at. Perhaps a reader in New York could make an excursion to a good bagel shop and report back?

Scott said...

Have you tried a proper boil in water that has been doctored with lye? I've found it is the only way to get the proper crust...

billjac said...

I really didn't want to deal with lye so I was happy when the crust in my first batch turned out pretty well. If that was just a fluke I'll have to get ahold of some and give it a try. I want to do a bit more experimentation before I go there, though.