The first thing I wanted to eat once I'd finished the food lover's cleanse was bread. Specifically, bagels. I don't know why. But I'm glad, because it meant that I could try make some.
Try? Pfft. These were wonderful. I take no credit, though. I've been meaning to try these ever since Deb posted the recipe on Smitten Kitchen with photographs that almost bowled me over. Golden. Plump. Chewy. Fresh. I bookmarked them right away.
Growing up in Melbourne's north, a poor little Greek girl might not know what a bagel even is. Sad, isn't it? I (poor little Greek girl) knew some wonderful bread, and I knew what kolouria were (but do you? patience is a virtue...), but, really, what's so good about a bagel? I knew that there were things called bagels that people ate in Hollywood films and on American television shows all the time. But no bagel I'd ever eaten here had struck me as the kind of thing you'd want to eat every day - until I crossed the river, that is. The year I did my honours degree, I worked in a fancy delicatessen owned by a Jewish family in Prahran. Every morning I had to get up at 6 am and travel across to the wrong side of town and bust my ass for 12 hours or so serving people with one billion times more money than me. But I learned a lot about food. And, for the first time, I ate a wonderful bagels. The bagels we got in at Steve's place were from Aviv bakery - and sometimes we got bagels from Glicks. When they arrived in the morning they were golden, tender and still warm, and you'd always have a hard time putting them out without putting one aside for lunch to have with chevre and top quality smoked salmon - even if you'd already brought lunch from home. I've missed those fresher than fresh morning bagels - they'd been one of my favourite breakfast treats. Until now. I'm telling you, these are better than any bagels I've ever had - and I made them. Myself. I was home alone when they first came out of the oven and had a feeling that they might be TOTALLY excellent, but I needed confirmation. I passed a bagful to a helpful friend who fed them to a business partner from NYC, who gave these bagels the thumbs up on appearance, texture and flavour. I felt validated. And then I ate another one.
Can you imagine serving these to people fresh out of the oven after a big night out for a restorative brunch? Or better: how about sneaking out of bed in the morning to slide a few of these into the oven to awaken your (new?) lover with the best-ever scent of bread baking? Putty in your hands, my friends. You need to start these a little bit in advance, but they're not difficult by any means. You need to budget enough time to make a sponge, then the dough. Then you need to retard the dough (yep!) overnight in the fridge. You'll boil them briefly in the morning then throw them in your very hot oven for around 5 minutes. Then the world will be your oyster. I'm going to link to this precious recipe, because a) it's not mine and b) it's too bloody long to type out. But there are a few changes I made that are listed below. Enjoy.
Peter Reinhart's Bagels at Smitten Kitchen: totally bronx-worthy
Changes I made and some tips:
1. I substituted half the whole amount of bread flour used for all-purpose flour, simply because I ran out of bread flour. I don't necessarily recommend this, but thought I should note that the bagels still turned out wonderful and could thus probably be made very successfully with all-purpose flour, if that's all you have on hand.
2. Malt syrup? I could have gone to the health food store to investigate, but I subbed in honey and it worked a treat.
3. I didn't bake these all at once: I kept some unboiled, unbaked bagels in the fridge and used them over 3 days. The final day morning was pushing it a bit - they turned out a little flat. But you can have them ready to go in the evening and just finish them off at breakfast time. So handy!
4. Size matters: Deb made mini bagels. The original recipe makes larger bagels. I made something in between. I can put my hand in the air and admit that I, too, am a geek: I weighed each bit of dough to make sure the bagels came out evenly sized. I made my dough balls/rolls around 3 1/4 ounces each and got 17 bagels from this batch.
5. My first batch looked more like donuts than bagels. This was because the time between boiling and baking was too long - and I mean about 5 minutes. Try to boil as many as you can in one go and get those babies in oven ASAP. The sooner the better. They'll retain their bagely shape more and look so good you'll want to beat them up.
6. I topped mine with sesame seeds because I LOVE sesame bagels. But I can't wait to try other flavours. I've had requests already for blueberry. God help me - and my waistline.