Let The Bagel Be Unbroken

Like everyone else I know I’m sitting at home, except for masked-and-gloved expeditions to the supermarket every couple of weeks. From the looks of things, everyone in the world has decided to take up baking when they are not washing their hands or going to the bathroom. Our markets have vast empty spaces where flour, paper towels and toilet paper used to sit.

I’ve been thinking if a guy wants to see immediate and sincere gratitude, the hot birthday present this spring could be a jumbo pack of toilet paper. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m a meat guy and baking, like vegetables, has been off my beat. But we wanted bagels a couple of weeks ago, to replicate the deli experience we can’t have right now. I had some flour and yeast so I gave it a try. The bagels were OK, but far from ideal.

I wanted ideal.

My first attempt. Using the finger-poke method to shape them, the tops turned out OK but the bottoms were wrinkled as a Shar-Pei’s face, and a lot less cute.

On my third effort I hit on a really good recipe at Sally’s Baking Addiction, here: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-bagels/. I used her instruction for overnight proofing in the refrigerator, and they were delicious.

This is a great recipe and easy. I boiled the bagels for 90 seconds on each side, gave them their egg-white wash before baking and they came out perfectly chewy, with a slightly crisp crust. They taste just a little sweet like a perfect plain bagel should, and I think they taste better than any I can buy.

Shaping them, however, is killing me.

Bagel shapers seem be either pokers or snakers. Pokers make a ball out of each piece of dough then send a floured index finger through the middle and wiggle it until they have what they want. Snakers make a 10-inch-long rope of the dough, then fold it around their open hand and roll to seal.

My tops look fine when I poke the hole, but as I cannot get a perfectly shaped ball in the first place the bottom bakes up looking like a construction zone.

Snaking gives me good-looking circles before I boil them but once in the water they decide to turn into bagel croissants.

A croissant bagel is not what I'm after.

This is not what I want.

On this specimen from a couple of weeks ago, the ends came apart when I boiled it, and once the bagel is in the water there’s no going back. It tasted good, but I needed to do better.

Today I tried the method you can see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTdbDxfYydo.

The technique in this video has you tie a little knot at the end of your rope, then press to roll everything together. I can see that I didn’t go quite far enough with my knot, and maybe not vigorous enough with my roll to seal, so I had a little unwinding in the water.

Bagel snakes. Looks like the two in the back are attacking each other. Gotta tighten my knot.

Still, I am encouraged and having fun. The bagels taste great and I think I’m closing in on the shaping. I think I’ll have it right next time.

As it is, I’ve learned something fun, useful and delicious.

And that absolute perfection might be overrated.

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