Sourdough Bagels 1 – Me 0

6 June 2009
By

alien mutant bagelsI’ve never been a bagel person, but given that the only bagels I’ve ever had were from supermarkets or the like in Western Canada, I doubt that I’ve had the best. Perhaps really good bagels will change my mind? No idea, but since bagels were next in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, I was willing to give it a try.

As usual, I converted the recipe to grams and halved it. After all, it’s just Fahim and I, and if we don’t like ’em, then what? Yeah, hopeful and pragmatic. πŸ˜‰

I can’t get high gluten flour, or even bread flour for that matter, so used my all-purpose mystery flour. No barley malt syrup, diastatic malt, or anything even remotely like it. I tried making some, but that was a huge flop. User *cough* error, of sorts. Anyway, I used honey instead.

If you want to see the original Peter Reinhart Bagel recipe, it’s up at smittenkitchen.com, and the bagel pictures over there look really really nice. Not like my alien amoeba-like blobs.

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels

Yield: 6 extremely large, 8 regularly large or 12 miniature bagels

Sponge

  • 543 grams sourdough starter (100% hydration), refreshed

Dough

  • 241grams (8.5 ounces) flour
  • 10 grams (0.35 ounces /1 1/4 teaspoons) salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey

To Finish

  • 1 tablespoon baking soda (in the boiling water
  • Sesame seeds

Day One

Because I’m using my sourdough starter in the place of the sponge, things changed. The first step was to make the sponge using flour, water, and yeast. Instead, I refreshed my starter and waited until it was vigourously active.

Then I added the remainder of the ingredients, mixed in my cwappy little mixer until it sounded like it was going to have a seizure, then removed it and plopped it onto my counter for kneading.

This was a firm dough. I added no additional flour to it during the kneading process – none was required as it didn’t stick to anything. Nada. Unsurprisingj – I calculated the hydration of the dough at somewhere around 52%, if I recall correctly. I wrote it down somewhere, but, eh, no idea where that is now. πŸ™‚

I kneaded until it passed the windowpane test – still no thermometer and probably won’t be for a very very long time. πŸ˜€

alien mutant bagelsI divided the dough into eight somewhat equal balls and formed them into the requisite bagel shape. I was supposed to wait, but forgot. Ooops.

Then I let them sit for 20 minutes and dunk one in water to see if it floats.

Mine floated like a witch. πŸ˜€

No hesitation, not even a smidge of movement towards the bottom. Just float. Float float float float float.

Ayup. Time to stick ’em in the fridge for overnight.

Day Two

alien mutant bagelsThe bagels had risen somewhat in the fridge overnight. However. There were problems. All of said problems relate to my choice in oils.

While I do have extra virgin olive oil, ghee, and even canola oil in the house (oil of choice for mayonnaise), the standard all-purpose oil that I use is virgin coconut oil. Great in curries, breads, and whatever else. I have the others around for specific purposes – canola for when flavourless is required, ghee for some curries & specific dishes, olive oil for European & Mediterranean dishes.

Thing is, while virgin coconut oil is a great oil, it becomes solid at around 25-27C. The fridge temp is in the neighborhood of 4C. So, you see, a problem arises.

The oil I smeared on the baking sheet that I placed the bagels on was solid. The bagels stuck to it, naturally enough. The plastic sheet covering the bagels was covered in now-solid coconut oil as well. A thin layer, yes, but solid nonetheless. And sticking, again, occurred.

Removing the plastic sheet didn’t do too much damage to the bagels, but removing the bagels from the cooking sheet… Ah, yes. Deformities. Mutations. Freakishly odd-looking bagels resulted.

Note to self: don’t use virgin coconut oil with baking projects that you’ll be sticking in the fridge. Don’t use it to make mayo either, but you already knew that…

alien mutant bagelsAnyway. I pried the bagels off the baking sheet and dunked ’em in boiling water, a minute per side, remove, and, as soon as I could handle ’em, stuck ’em headfirst into a plate of sesame seeds. Should have been lighter on the sesame seeds. Then line ’em up on a baking sheet and baked 5 minutes, then rotated and baked another five at whatever temperature that broken oven has that approaches 450F. I think I might have baked them an extra five minutes or so for them to get enough colour in their cheeks.

I removed them from the oven and let them cool.

The Results

The bagels were tough and chewy and our jaws got a massive workout. Too chewy. Way way way too chewy. They were pretty flat, though, while I was hoping for decent rise. I don’t think they rose at all in the oven. They were thin enough that they were a challenge to slice in half, but I managed, barely, and without bloodshed. That’s always a win. πŸ™‚

They tasted nice, though. Actually had really really good flavour with just at hint of sourness from the sourdough starter. My sourdough starter is not sour, after all.

alien mutant bagelsWill I make bagels again? Honestly, I’m not too sure. I’m not a diehard fan anyway, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything, but there’s that inquisitive side that wonders if I can make them work. Boil them for a shorter time period, for instance. Shape them differently so they’re not as flat and have the potential to plump up more. Other than that, though, I’m honestly not really sure what I could do to make them work for me. Maybe more research. But then, there are so many other breads that I do enjoy and that do work with a lot less fuss, so there isn’t a lot of point other than sheer stubborness on my part. I hate being defeated. So, right now, it’s a stalemate.

I’m also submitting this post to Yeastspotting, a weekly showcase of truly drool-worthy breads. In addition to this being part of Sourdough Saturday here on my blog. πŸ˜€

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9 Responses

  1. #1
    Susie 

    Mine were VERY chewy too. I boiled them the one minute on each side. I was told to have them less chewy to boil less. I’m going to try them again sometime. I also would bake them more next time. Will you try them again?
    Susie

  2. #2
    Laurie 

    I figured boiling less would make them less chewy. If I were to make these again, I would probably do 15-30 seconds per side. But I don’t know if I’ll make these again. Maybe in a half year or so, but certainly not immediately.

    Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one with really chewy, though. πŸ™‚

  3. Sorry these didn’t work out for you! If you do decide to try again, try boiling for a total of 20 seconds only.

  4. #4
    elra 

    I know, I know, I should laugh at someone pain, but I couldn’t help myself (I am that bad, eh) Well, look at the bright side, JAW exercise can be a good thing, it’s like having a face lift, no? Well sort of …

    You see, you can always go to Susan for some advice right, that’s what I do. Anyway, don’t be discourage, and good luck for your next trial.
    Cheers,
    elra

  5. #5
    Laurie 

    Oh wow, I’m even further behind on responding to comments than I thought I was!

    Susan, 20 seconds sounds like a plan. I’ve also sorted out my starter problem, so between the two of them, I think it might be worth trying again. Thanks!

    elra – laugh away. I would. πŸ™‚ Thanks for your comment and for visiting my blog. πŸ™‚

  6. #6
    Barbara 

    Laurie it sounds like your experience was “interesting.” I do admire your willingness to improvise. As you saw on my blog entry for bagels (http://strangerkiss.wordpress.com/2009/06/20/the-great-bagel-disaster-of-09/) things could have been far, far worse πŸ˜‰ I’m guessing that one shouldn’t expect much in the way of oven spring since you’ve boiled the dough which would kill the yeast…right? I was thinking maybe they should be left out to rise a bit before the boiling. I may try that next time. If nothing else it’ll put some fear in them when I tell them what happens next…

  7. #7
    Laurie 

    “Interesting”. What a great way of putting it. πŸ˜€

    Thing about boiling – the bagels aren’t boiled that long – a minute or two, which is not long enough for the inside of the bagels to get fully cooked or hot enough to kill the yeast. And that’s not the point of boiling the bagels anyway. Boiling is to change the structure of the crust, to make it chewy instead of crusty and dry. Sure, the yeasts in the outer layers of the bagel would be killed by the boiling, but not all the way through – I doubt it gets hot enough. Although, without proper equipment to test, this is only a theory…

    I love the idea of putting fear into them. πŸ˜€

    Okay, off to check out your updated bagel story…

  8. Perhaps the chewiness was a combination both of the size of the bagels and the boiling time? My bagels were relatively large, boiled them a minute on each side and they came out ok, not excessively chewy. I like how you’re improvising as you go along to make do with the ingredients that you find, that’s part of the adventure of baking isn’t it? πŸ˜‰
    .-= Danielle/Bon Vivant´s last blog ..BBA Challenge #3 – Bagels =-.

  9. #9
    Laurie 

    Yep, a combination of size and boiling time is quite likely. The bagels weren’t puffy, didn’t rise as much as I’d expected.

    Improvising is key. How else do we learn? πŸ™‚

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About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

Life is an adventure. Join me! :)

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