Food & Drink

How to make bagels

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Batch of bagels
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How can you learn to make delicious, home-made bagels?

I come from the land of bagels also known as Brooklyn, New York. No matter where you go (at least in my opinion), there are no better bagels to be had, bought or tasted anywhere else in the world, although those at H&H on Manhattanís Upper West Side admittedly do come close. This does not mean, however, that you cannot learn how to make bagels that will thrill all of those whom you care to impress.

There are some who say the reason for the superiority of New York bagels lies in the cityís unique water supply. Others claim how to make bagels has nothing to do with the water and everything to do with the long, slow and cold fermentation process. Whichever may be the case, you can make delicious bagels in your home and discover that ultimately, the techniques for making them are no more complicated than making a loaf of bread.

What should you keep in mind when learning how to make bagels?

1- Getting that famous bagel shape right

You must realize that it may take a while to get the bagel shape exactly the way you are used to seeing them. Donít be discouraged if the first few batches you make look a bit funny. Even with their odd twists and shapes, you will find the taste of homemade bagels far superior to any that you might buy in the supermarket.

2- The difference between bagels and other breads

One of the things that makes a bagel different from other breads is the two-stage cooking process. A bagel is first briefly boiled, and then baked. Some experts claim that an unboiled bagel is ďmerely a roll with a hole.Ē This boiling step, more than any other, defines the uniqueness of the bagel. Unlike baguettes and other European hearth breads that use a high percentage of water to achieve a soft, open-holed texture, bagels are made with much less water, which allows for a stiff dough that can withstand being dunked in boiling water before a final trip to delectability in the oven.

3- Ingredients for that perfect bagel

Bagels are about the simplest of all breads to make. A little flour, water, salt, yeast and barley malt syrup (or honey) is all it takes. Although not all supermarkets carry it, barley malt is available at many markets and is shelved with other syrups. It resembles dark honey or molasses. Made from sprouted and then cooked barley, its preparation releases maltose sugar from the grain. If you cannot find it, substitute an equal amount of honey.

The mysterious, secret ingredient in learning how to make bagels is time, and any bakery that makes bagels allows for this usually via an overnight method that stretches out the fermentation. In order for the dough to properly release the subtle flavors trapped in the flour, it requires about 12 hours of sitting time, which allows the chemical and biological processes to do their wonderful thing.

People who make bagels at home will not have the advantage of using the high-protein flour available only to bagel shops. It is this ingredient that creates the bagelís unique and very chewy texture. Still, donít despair, as unbleached bread flour from any well-known manufacturer (Pillsbury, General Mills, King Arthur, etc) will do an effective job.

So look for bagel recipes online and spend an afternoon in your kitchen. No matter how they turn out, once you learn how to make bagels, they will never fail to delight you, even if the hole isnít exactly where it should be and modern geometry doesnít quite recognize the shape you have created.

Keep at it.

Bagel nirvana is nigh.

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